The Election Commission on Saturday maintained that it had put in place a well-considered arrangement to ensure peaceful polling in Jharkhand, where the five-phase elections commence on November 25.

Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi denied that the EC had any information about any conspiracy by the CPI (Maoist) of indulging in violence with a view to disrupt the elections. At the moment, he said the Commission did not consider the situation serious.

Mr. Quraishi, however, said the EC was well-posted with the prevailing situation in the State and had accordingly initiated necessary measures for peaceful polling during the elections that conclude on December 18.

The Commission sought the deployment of almost 30,000 paramilitary forces to ensure free and fair elections and to thwart any nefarious design by naxalites who are present in all districts of the State.

The EC has reduced the poll timings which will commence at 7 a.m. and end at 3 p.m.

Speaking at a seminar, Mr. Quraishi announced that the EC intended to set up a unit in the next two to three months to verify affidavits and expenditure statements of contesting candidates, an exercise it was unable to undertake as of now.

The EC intends to rope in the Income Tax department to scrutinise the claims and establish their authenticity. Mr. Quraishi said the EC was anxious to strengthen its monitoring wing as it was not in a position to ascertain the validity of the affidavits.

Apart from looking into the financial assets and liabilities of the candidates, the IT will also be required to keep an eye on the sources of funding of the candidates.

Mr. Quraishi expressed his reservations on the issue of autonomy enjoyed by the commissioners, saying that the system suffered from shortcomings. He hoped that the government would take the necessary steps to set things right by amending the Constitution.

The EC also needed greater powers to check the growth of “bogus parties.” He lamented that the EC did not have the power to deregister political parties even though it had the power to register new ones.

Pointing out that about 1000 political parties existed in the country, Mr. Quraishi underscored the fact that these grew by about 80 to 100 each year.

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