Chief Electoral Officer Anil Kumar Jha has taken up several new initiatives to improve electoral participation in the May 5 elections to the State Legislative Assembly. He has held press conferences daily to inform the public about various developments during the run-up to the elections and kept strict vigil on poll code violations.

On the eve of the polls, Mr. Jha spoke to The Hindu. Exercepts:

Q: Are you satisfied with what the Election Commission (EC) has been able to achieve this time to keep elections free from money and muscle power?

A: I am satisfied with the efforts made by the commission. It is team work. I cannot tell that I am fully satisfied. We can always do better, may be in the next elections.

Politicians continue to hoodwink the EC and lure voters. Is there no foolproof method to stop this?

We have taken several steps to check money and muscle power in these elections. We are using webcasting, video and digital cameras to monitor the polling process. Technology is a powerful and potent force to complement human resources.

Are you hopeful that the Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) campaign will ensure more voting percentage this time?

We have received good public response for SVEEP. A lot of youth in the age group of 18 to 22 have enrolled. We hope a large number of youth and other voters come forward and cast their votes this time.

Is voting a right or responsibility?

This time we emphasised voting as a citizen’s right more than a responsibility. ‘Vote is your right’ is our focus.

Are cases booked by EC seriously pursued after polls?

Surely we will pursue all cases after the elections. Police, Income Tax and Exercise department officials have booked cases. There are several instances of disqualification of candidates after victory.

What will the EC do about the illegal cash and liquor seized during the campaign?

If people concerned come forward with documents, we will return cash, goods and liquor. Now, the cash has been kept in the State treasury. If nobody comes forward to claim goods and liquor, we will auction them.

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