Staff Reporter

MADURAI: Candidates fear that the October 11 byelection might not be held in a free and fair manner, Chief Election Officer Naresh Gupta said.

Talking to reporters here on Monday, he said that they were apprehensive that some elements operating from outside (the constituency) might create problems.

R. Bhattacharya, Deputy Election Commissioner, who arrived in the afternoon, enquired the candidates and their representatives at the Collectorate about the complaints of money distribution to voters by political parties and incidents of violence.

"Mr. Bhattachariya has come here to assess the situation and decide on the measures to be taken," Mr. Gupta said.

He held discussions with the Inspector General of Police (South Zone), the City Police Commissioner, the District Election Officer and the Returning Officer. He said that voters were not enquired on charges of money distribution.

Additional observers

On the measures to be taken for the conduct of by-poll, the CEO said that they would be known after the DEC sent his report to the Election Commission. Declining to disclose the details of the meeting, Mr. Gupta said that it would form the subject matter of the DEC's report. However,

Mr. Gupta hinted at appointment of additional observers. Three companies of paramilitary forces had conducted a flag march and they would be deployed at polling stations from Tuesday afternoon.

The Election Commission had directed that non-voters, including political functionaries provided with security cover, be moved out of the constituency by 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

Stalin violated code?

On Local Administration Minister M.K. Stalin making new promises to voters during his campaign, Mr. Gupta said that the EC would take cognisance of it.

When reporters pointed out that Mr. Stalin promised provision of colour television sets to all ration-card holders even if they already owned a TV set, while campaigning in Madurai, Mr. Gupta said, "If he had made the announcement after the model code of conduct came into force, it has to be taken cognisance of."

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