Gill hints at Assembly poll in April

CHENNAI, NOV. 15. The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), Mr. M. S. Gill, today hinted that elections to the Tamil Nadu Assembly due next year

could probably be held in April.

Asked specifically at a news conference at the Raj Bhavan here this evening whether next April could be taken as a `probable month' for holding the Assembly elections, Mr. Gill, in a revealing remark, said: `your guess is as good as mine.'

Mr. Gill, who earlier held discussions with the State Chief Secretary, the Home Secretary, the Director General of Police and other officials besides separate meetings with representatives of various political parties, however, said that the EC would soon hold a meeting in New Delhi to discuss the poll date issue.

Stating that the EC will have to do its job `in good time' in the context of the new Assembly having to be in place by May 22, 2001, Mr. Gill said he had heard the views of various parties on the issue though none of them suggested any specific month.

Elaborating his remarks, Mr. Gill said he would take into consideration factors such as the revised electoral rolls to be published by January 2 next year, the census operations in February 2001, followed by the school examinations schedule.

Even as the EC was yet to decide whether the Tiruchi Lok Sabha by-election was to be held along with the Assembly polls, Mr. Gill, to another query, sounded sympathetic to the TMC's plea to hold simultaneous elections to the Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu Assemblies. `We know Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu have a close link,' he quipped.

On what the EC proposed to do about several complaints of bogus voter ID cards and factual errors in them, Mr. Gill admitted that there were `some difficulties' in the issuance of Electors Photo Identity Cards (EPIC) in Tamil Nadu.

`We are trying to straighten it out and if there are mistakes, they will have to be corrected and new cards given,' said Mr. Gill. Despite the hiccups, `I am confident' of completing the EPIC programme in Tamil Nadu, he said, adding, `it will be finished wily-nily.'

Nonetheless, on complaints made by some political parties on bogus voter ID cards, Mr. Gill warned that any attempts to get `duplicate or triplicate cards' - to enable a voter cast the vote at more than one place - will be severely dealt with.

The CEO, Mr. Mrutyunjay Sarangi, has been asked to keep a close watch and `we will chase these bogus cards much more than Veerappan was chased,' the CEC asserted. Criminal cases will be filed by the police wherever detected and `we will make a big noise about it to weed out bogus cards at any cost,' he added.

Emphasising the importance of EPIC, Mr. Gill said it was as good as a `citizenship card' which the Union Home Ministry was earlier planning to give. But `we convinced the Home Minister, Mr. L. K. Advani, not to have one more card as the EC was already covering 62 crore people with its EPIC,' explained Mr. Gill.

Mr. Gill also disclosed he was pushing hard for the `no voting without identification concept' besides electronic voting machines. The CEC has been asked to ensure that all potential candidates of various political parties also got their EPIC.

He said the issues raised by the political parties - the DMK, the AIADMK, the TMC, the Congress(I), the Left parties, the PMK and the PT, among others, centred around worries about EPIC programme whether it would be completed in time, bogus cards, and one-day poll.