Poll panel declares all booths sensitive

Special Correspondent

Move to ensure free and fair polling

Complaint counter to be set up in polling booths

128 cases booked so far for violation of conduct code

BANGALORE: The Election Commission has declared all polling stations in the eight Assembly constituencies where byelections are being held on Saturday as sensitive to ensure free and fair polling.

Deputy Election Commissioner R. Balakrishnan and State Chief Electoral Officer M.N. Vidyashankar on Tuesday held a review meeting with deputy commissioners and top police officials of Tumkur, Mandya and Bangalore Rural districts and decided to scale up election arrangements in the eight constituencies to eliminate the use of money and muscle power during the election campaign and on the day of polling.

Eight constituencies

Mr. Balakrishnan told presspersons that the commission had decided to use all available resources, including the police, to hold free and fair elections in all the constituencies. Byelections will be held in Hukkeri, Arabhavi, Deodurga, Karwar, Turuvekere, Doddaballapur, Maddur and Madhugiri constituencies on Saturday.

The Deputy Election Commissioner also held a videoconference with the deputy commissioners of Belgaum and Raichur districts and said micro-observers and videographers would be deployed at all polling stations. Night patrolling would be intensified to prevent the distribution of money, saris and liquor to voters by the candidates.

Mr. Balakrishnan said a complaint counter would be set up in all polling booths to receive complaints from the public as well as candidates. The election observers would be asked to stay back for a few days after polling till the complaints, if any, were settled.

The observers had been instructed to serve notices on independent candidates if they acted as “dummy” candidates and worked for furthering the interests of national party or regional party candidates in the elections. Under Section 171 (H) of the Indian Penal Code, the observer could book a case against the “dummy” candidate for working in favour of a party candidate, he said.

Communication links

Each booth would be provided with a landline or cellphone to ensure peaceful elections.

Mr. Vidyashankar said 128 police cases had been booked against candidates for violation of the model code of conduct and Rs. 27 lakh, including the cash seized from Janata Dal (Secular) leaders in Belgaum, had been seized till December 22.

Liquor seized

A few lorry-loads of liquor being transported from Madhya Pradesh to Raichur had also been seized. The Madhya Pradesh Chief Electoral Officer had been asked to provide details about the transportation of liquor from that State to Karnataka, Mr. Balakrishnan said.

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