All efforts will be made to ensure free and fair assembly polls in Karnataka, Chief Election Commissioner V.S.Sampath said on Tuesday after reviewing arrangements with the state administration.

On the suggestion of political parties and in view of the severe hot conditions, the EC has decided to advance the poll timings by an hour to 7 am, he told reporters.

Mr. Sampath, here along with Election Commissioners H.S.Brahma and S.N.A.Zaidi on the second visit of the full Commission to Karnataka, had discussions with political parties, deputy commissioners, superintendents of police, inspector generals and also with the chief secretary, home secretary, the DGP and senior Income Tax department officials.

Responding to a question on Karnataka High Court ordering emergent notices to the Election Commission besides Congress President Sonia Gandhi and state PCC chief G.Parameshwara on a petition seeking a probe into alleged collection of funds from party members seeking tickets for the May 5 state Assembly polls, Mr. Sampath said “we are yet to be served the notice“.

On whether there was any provision for “processing fee” being collected from the aspiring candidates, he said, “These are all intra-party matters. Our laws relating to parties are not really robust. At the moment, it is a grey area.”

Answering a query, Mr. Sampath said, “Only exit poll is banned till the last day. There is no ban on opinion polls.”

Besides police observers, awareness observers will be deployed in each district to ensure that more and more people exercise their franchise.

Mr.Sampath said “Special Vulnerability Mapping Plan” has been prepared for weaker sections and minorities who are prone to be intimidated by the political parties.

In addition to flying squads, check posts will be set up to check any violation of model code of conduct and Industrial Security Force and Income Tax officials will be deployed at airports for screening of cash coming in.

A strict watch will be kept on poll expenditure by the political parties, he said.

He also said the Election Commission was completely neutral and non-partisan in enforcement of election law and any partisanship would invite stringent action against the official concerned.

More In: Karnataka | National | News