Poll panel drafting guidelines for Karnataka poll

April 5th, 2008 - 5:49 pm ICT by admin  

Bangalore, April 5 (IANS) The Election Commission (EC) is drafting fresh guidelines for free and fair conduct of assembly elections in Karnataka next month, Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswamy said here Saturday. “Guidelines for electioneering by political parties will be issued early next week. As the law pertaining to the use of campaign material such as banners and posters has been amended recently, we are studying it to incorporate in the guidelines. Since we received the amendment Friday, we hope to announce the guidelines by Monday or Tuesday,” Gopalaswamy told reporters at the state secretariat.

The three-member poll panel, consisting Gopalaswamy, election commissioners S.Y. Qureshi and Navin Chawla are here on a two-day visit to review preparations for the poll that will be held in three phases May 10-22 for the 224-member legislative house. The first and second phases of poll will be held May 10 and May 16. Results are to be declared May 25.

Karnataka has been under President’s rule since Nov 20.

“We have unanimously decided to hold the poll as scheduled in the light of the Supreme Court’s ruling that a legislative house should be reconstituted within six months (May 28) after the previous assembly was dissolved. Only acts of god (natural calamities) and not acts of humans can compel us to put off polls,” Gopalaswamy said.

The EC has decided to invoke provisions of Karnataka Open Places (Prevention of Disfigurement) Act 1981 to ban political parties from putting up banners, buntings and cutouts of candidates in public places.

“As part of campaigning, political parties will be allowed to put up posters, banners and buntings only at venues where public meetings will be held. They should, however, remove the publicity material within an hour after such meetings conclude,” Gopalaswamy said, giving a preview of the proposed guidelines.

The poll panel has also appealed to political parties not to use plastic material to ensure eco-friendly campaign and minimise poll expenditure.

“During our meetings with political parties Friday, we have told them to desist from using plastic material in any form for electioneering. We hope they will abide by our advice,” Gopalaswamy said.

To ensure that all political parties observe the model code of conduct strictly, the EC has decided to empower poll observers and officials concerned to monitor their movements, check the campaign material and bring to its notice any violation.

“Grievances cells will be set up in all constituencies for lodging complaints by the public as well as affected parties of any violation of the model code or the guidelines. To facilitate genuine voting, booth-level officers will be authorised to verify the voter’s identity card and tally with the electoral list,” he said.

The poll panel has also decided to convene a meeting of deputy commissioners/collectors and top police officials in the border districts to check the movement of liquor, money and undesirable elements.

“We will hold a meeting with the top executive and police officials of the neighbouring states and Karnataka later this month to adopt a common strategy for curbing the influence of liquor, money and anti-social elements in the run-up to the voting day. It will be responsibility of the state machinery to monitor such activities and take stringent action against violators,” Gopalaswamy said.

The CEC, however, declined to explain the reasons for holding the poll in three phases unlike in the past when parliamentary or assembly elections in the state were held in either single phase or two phases.

“All political parties have welcomed holding the poll on schedule and offered to cooperate with the poll panel for lawful and smooth conduct of polling. None of the parties objected to the three-phase polling, as it is intended to help the election and state machinery to conduct the democratic exercise fairly,” the CEC noted.

Asked why the poll panel has decided to hold the election in north Karnataka constituencies May 22 in the third or last phase when the entire Deccan region will be in the grip of peak summer heat, Gopalswamy said a study of the weather conditions during May revealed there was not much variation in temperatures to affect the turnout of voters.

“As per the weather data made available to us, we have not seen much difference in hot temperatures between May 10-22. Hot summer season lasts till the month-end in north Karnataka,” Gopalaswamy said.

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