Elections in West Bengal would be held in due course and comments to the contrary were ill-informed, Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi said here on Wednesday.
The Election Commission team was going back with great satisfaction. “We suspect no partisanship,” he said at a press meet. His colleague V.S. Sampath was present.
Elections were due in West Bengal by June 11, 2011 and “the ball will come to the Commission's court only from December 11, six months before the scheduled date,” Mr. Quraishi said.
“We go by a lot of logic like examination schedules, agricultural season and law and order situation. Our effort is to go as close to the due date as possible. As far as we are concerned elections will be held in due course.”
Asked about speculations on advancement of polls, he said: “it is a free country.”
Earlier, the two Election Commissioners held meetings with Chief Electoral Officer Sunil Gupta, district magistrates, divisional commissioners Chief Secretary, Home Secretary and the Director-General of Police.
Mr. Quraishi said West Bengal's performance on issuance of photo identity cards was excellent. With an issuance of cards to 98 per cent of the eligible population, the State had joined the ranks of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Haryana, which were among the top five States in this respect. “The bogus voter problem is minimal in West Bengal.”
On the issue of poll expenditure, Mr. Quraishi said that while the role of money needed to be watched, the State did not seem to be having the problem of “paid news” much. “The media is our friend and ally in this democratic process and any complaint reported by the media will be taken up.”
He said the Commission was doing a vulnerability mapping whereby every booth would be evaluated on the basis of 10 new criteria that had been formulated. These criteria had replaced the earlier three of categorising a booth as normal, sensitive or hyper-sensitive. “We have now created a list of criteria that includes the number of ID cards issued, the turnout records, the missing voters on the list of a booth and the status on communal sensitivity.”
While West Bengal was one of the first States to have booth-level officers (BLO), it was necessary to have a local BLO for every booth. The voter turnout here, among the highest in the country, puts pressure on a polling station.
The State government promised to fill up vacancies in police and also in the posts of returning officers and assistant returning officers.
Asked about law and order problem, especially in areas like Darjeeling, he said the district magistrates had identified three areas of concern that they were asked to pinpoint. “This was discussed and we have said that we want assurance on the law and order position.”
The draft rolls of West Bengal would be ready by July 9 and claims and objections would be accepted till July 23. The final list would be up by September 7.
Mr. Quraishi said the Commission was going in for a centralised data base. He reiterated that electronic voting machines were technically tamper-proof, saying they were like a calculators. “They have no operating systems. The machines are marvels of democracy and talks of their being liable to tampering are irresponsible, he added.