The Lok Sabha elections this year has been hailed a success by all, including sections of the national and international press, Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla said on Monday.

He was delivering the second Mother Teresa Memorial Lecture on ‘Electoral Democracy in India’ at the Indira Gandhi National Open University here.

As for the initiatives taken by the EC to make the elections successful, Mr. Chawla said preparations started as early as 2008. Since it was decided that photo electoral rolls would be used, chief electoral officers were asked to prepare and publish them for 2008, so that even in case of early elections, the 2009 elections could be held with the photo electoral rolls.

A great deal of effort went into cleansing the rolls of the names of dead voters, duplicate names, people who had shifted locations; including all new eligible voters; and inserting photographs against voter details.

Mr. Chawla said 7.6 million new voters were registered; 1.2 million names deleted and the number of the registered voters rose to 716 million from 671 million in 2004. About 82 per cent of the electorate had their image on the photo rolls, and the turnout was 58.2 per cent.

Many major initiatives were introduced. For instance, booth-level officers were appointed to handle between 1,000-1,500 voters at a particular booth. They were responsible for the veracity of the electoral rolls pertaining to a geographical area. For the first time, the Commission initiated “vulnerability mapping” to identify villages and hamlets that could be vulnerable to intimidation. As many as 86,782 villages or hamlets were identified as ‘vulnerable’ and 3,73,886 persons identified as potential troublemakers and action was initiated against them.

Polling stations were equipped with mobile connectivity, landline phones, satellite phones, high frequency and very high frequency communication equipment. Practices that had shown favourable results in the previous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections were also followed. The Commission deployed observers and micro-observers to ensure that the entire process was fair and transparent. In addition, it partnered reputed civil society organisations for free and fair polling.

On the schedule of the elections, which was conducted in five phases, he said a section of the media and stakeholders felt that the duration could have been shorter.

However, the schedule had to be planned keeping in mind the geography, climate, special needs of some States, law and order issues, intense political rivalries in certain areas, movement of police forces across States and a host of other issues.

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