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Over 66 lakh voters to exercise franchise in 28 constituencies

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HOME IS WHERE MOM IS: A boy accompanies his mother, who has been posted for poll duty, even as she collected election material before leaving for her booth, in Bangalore on Friday.
HOME IS WHERE MOM IS: A boy accompanies his mother, who has been posted for poll duty, even as she collected election material before leaving for her booth, in Bangalore on Friday.

Bangalore Bureau

Election panel has drafted over 35,000 government employees for duty

BANGALORE: Across the city on Friday, the wheels of democracy started to gain momentum with men and material being transported to 6,163 polling stations for D-Day. Over 66 lakh voters from 28 constituencies in the city are eligible to exercise their franchise. Polling will be held between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Government employees drafted for election duty assembled at select locations in the city to know about the polling booths they were assigned to and collect electronic voting machines.

At the Malleswaram grounds, groups of middle-aged men and women seemed student-like as they huddled together checking lists put up by the authorities concerned. While many had received their polling station addresses, others placed in reserve had a long day of waiting ahead.

“I have been here since 8 a.m. and I have been told to stay on till late. This is the third trip I am making for elections. Workdays are being used up for this,” said Sree Kumari, a clerical officer at the SSLC Board. She anticipates some difficulties in the soon-to-be held repeaters’ examination as most of her colleagues have also been drafted for election duty.

“We had always received exemption because of examinations. But this time, all of us were compulsorily asked to report for election duty,” she said. With the expansion from 12 to 28 constituencies, the Election Commission has had to draft over 35,000 government employees for poll duty.

Electoral registration officers also received requests for exemption from women who could not leave their babies unattended during their overnight stay at their polling booths. Accompanied by her husband Girish who had to miss his brother’s marriage to help her take time off from election duty, Ashalatha, teacher at an aided school, said: “I do not know why I have been asked to report when so many of my male colleagues have managed to avoid it. I cannot leave my daughter alone.” Some were lucky though like Yashoda, a government school teacher from Nelamangala who, after three days of running pillar to post, managed to get an exemption. “I have a 10-month-old baby and she needs to be constantly taken care of,” she said.

To make things more comfortable for women officers, S.B. Bommanahalli, returning officer for Bangalore South constituency, said that “for the first time”, they (the women) have been put together in groups of two or three.

How do they vote?

With thousands of people drafted for election duty, have you ever wondered how these citizens cast their ballots? Most election officers are away from their constituencies at the time of voting and have to request for ballot papers to be sent to their homes or polling booths for them to be able to exercise their franchise. “Till now I have never voted. It is a complicated process and I am not convinced about it ensuring secrecy of ballot,” said Venkatesh, a polling officer who lives in Soppahalli on Bannerghatta Road.

Arrested

The Bangalore South Division arrested five men in connection with the seizure of Rs. 1,08,500 allegedly being distributed among voters on Thursday.

The police identified them as Lokesh, Kumara, Satish, Murali and Mohan. A press note from Bangalore Urban Deputy Commissioner M.A. Sadiq quoted the Banashankari police as saying the arrested are Congress workers. The police also recovered 217 envelopes of Rs. 500 each.

Security

The police will provide security to the eight colleges where electronic voting machines will be kept after polling on Saturday. The police department has decided to deploy paramilitary forces to guard these machines round the clock till the day of counting.

Security will be provided to Maharani Arts College, Maharani Science College, Government Arts College, Government Science College, RC College, Mount Carmel College, SSMRV College and Visvesvaraya Engineering College where counting is scheduled to take place.

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