"Election Commission will not take cognizance of the blasts in Patna as it did not occur in a poll bound state," Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath clarified in Bhopal on Tuesday. Mr. Sampath was replying to a query about the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) demand that the EC arrange for security for Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in light of the explosions that took place in Patna on Sunday, before his rally.
Mr. Sampath was in the capital to review the state's preparations for assembly polls next month. A key aspect of the EC's preparations is vulnerability mapping - to locate voters and areas which are under threat or may be influenced by money or muscle power. "We have identified 4200 hamlets, 1,54,000 voters as vulnerable and 14,950 booths as sensitive. Sixty seats are sensitive in terms of the expenditure by candidates," he told reporters
The state has 4.65 crore voters who will vote at 53,896 booths, 4738 of which will have the polling web cast. The State has completed the inclusion of photos for all registered voters, he added. Besides the 974 flying squads and 1004 static squads and the Income Tax department's Air Surveillance Units at airports to detect illegitimate cash or liquor, at least one Quick Response Team - comprising of a section each of Central Police Forces - will be deployed in all 230 assembly constituencies, EC sources clarified.
In meetings with political parties, Mr. Sampath said that many complaints on paid news and allurement of voters with alcohol were received. Chief Electoral Officer Jaideep Govind told this paper that the CPI, CPI(M) and the NCP had demanded prohibition of alcohol from November 1, the day nominations open, to November 25, polling day. In Jabalpur, Congress corporator Amar Chand Bawaria had asked the District Electoral Office to cover all lotus ponds as it resembled the symbol of the BJP and could influence voters. Mr. Govind clarified that his request has been denied.
The CEC said that the law of the land does not permit total prohibition for an extended period, as demanded. He added that directions have been given to Media Certification and Monitoring Committees to clear advertisements of parties within 24 hours. New regulations cover even ads on the internet. Mr. Sampath said a special symbol for the "None of the Above" button would be designed and publicised. He added that accredited journalists would enjoy exemption from suspension of arms licences during the poll period, in order to protect themselves.