Full Commission meets officials, party representatives ahead of Assembly polls
The Election Commission of India has taken a serious view of distribution of arms licences in some districts of Uttar Pradesh where State Assembly elections are just months away. The full Commission, which was here on Monday to take stock of the situation, has ordered a detailed probe into the distribution of arms licences.
Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi said the distribution of arms licences in some districts created some doubts. According to the CEC, 220 arm licences have been given in Shahjahanpur, 114 in Allahabad, 111 in Azamgarh, 148 in Chitrakoot, 257 in Gorakhpur, 160 in Deoria, 198 in Lucknow and 210 in Hardoi districts. “The issue is being examined,” Mr. Quraishi said. He was accompanied by Election Commissioners H.S. Brahma and V.S. Sampath.
During their day-long assessment, the Commission officials met the representatives of eight registered political parties, district magistrates, divisional commissioners and senior State officials, including the Chief Secretary, the Home Secretary and the D-G Police.
Mr. Quraishi was non-committal on the timing of the Assembly elections and in how many phases they would be spread. “The term of the present Vidhan Sabha expires on May 20, 2012, and the poll process has to be completed before that,” he told reporters. About the phases of the polling, he said a complete view would be taken after his visit to two other poll-bound States, Manipur and Goa. Before coming to Lucknow, the Commission had visited Uttarakhand and Punjab where elections are also due next year. Mr. Quraishi said he is meeting the Union Home Secretary on Tuesday about the availability of Central forces.
About complaints by some political parties regarding misuse of official machinery, the CEC said the Commission was keeping a close watch on two or three officials who were named by the political parties. He refused to disclose their names. He said the Commission's role starts only after the elections are announced and the model code of conduct is enforced.
Mr. Quraishi reiterated (he was in Lucknow in July this year) that there would be no compromise on ensuring a free and fair elections. “The officials have been told that neutrality is non-negotiable,” he maintained.
The CEC said the proposal to debar criminals from contesting elections has been pending with the Centre for the last 10 to 12 years. He had been assured that debarring criminals from contesting the polls topped the agenda of the Central Government, he added.
One of the items on the agenda before the Commission was increasing the voter turnout in Uttar Pradesh where the average turnout was 46 per cent, and in the cities it was 26 per cent. A voter education programme has been launched, Mr. Quraishi said. He said about 1.64 crore applications have been received for registration of new voters in the State.