Poll panel to crack down on parties violating model code

March 8th, 2009 - 6:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangalore, March 8 (IANS) The state election commission has sent out a strong signal to political parties in Karnataka that it would crack down on them for violations of the model code of conduct during the Lok Sabha elections.
“We are adopting a zero-tolerance policy against electoral offences by anyone associated with the poll, be they political parties, contestants, cadres or officials,” Karnataka Chief Electoral Officer M.N. Vidyashankar told IANS.

To ensure a clean and eco-friendly campaign, wall posters, banners, buntings, cut-outs and campaign material of any sort will not be allowed during electioneering. As specified, they will be allowed for an hour before and after at venues where public meetings and political rallies are to be held with the permission of the local/police authorities.

“Within hours after the general elections were announced Monday, we swung into action and got thousands of hoardings and posters projecting political netas (leaders) and their cadres across the city and districts removed to enforce the code,” the state’s top poll official said.

The state poll panel has already circulated a copy of the model code of conduct to all political parties as a ready reckoner to ensure their candidates and cadres adhere to the guidelines.

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

Elections to the 15th Lok Sabha in the state’s 28 constituencies are slated to be held in two phases April 23 and 30. In the first phase, 17 parliamentary seats will go to poll and the remaining 11 in the second phases.

Though Karnataka was the first in the country to hold assembly elections in May 2008 after the delimitation of parliamentary and assembly constituencies was notified in July 2007, this is the first time the general elections are being held with many constituencies redefined.

“Post-delimitation, of the 28 Lok Sabha constituencies, five are reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC) and two for Scheduled Tribes (ST) unlike four SC seats and none for STs in the previous state or general elections. Though the number of constituencies remains the same, the composition and profile of many has changed following delimitation,” Joint Chief Electoral Officer B.V. Kulkarni said.

The total number of electorate has also gone up to over 40.11 million, with men-women ratio at 10:9.7 this time from 38.59 million in the 2004 polls. As a result, the number of polling booths has gone up to 46,050 from 43,364 in 2004.

As India’s IT hub, Bangalore has three parliamentary constituencies (north, central and south) instead of two hitherto and a rural constituency in place of the erstwhile Kanakapura seat in the neighbourhood.

“We have requisitioned for about 100,000 police personnel and 250,000 polling officials to conduct a free and fair election in two phases. Incidentally, parliamentary polls are being held in Karnataka separately this time unlike in the previous two general elections in 2004 and 1999 when elections to the state legislative assembly were also held simultaneously,” Kulkarni said.

In the run-up to the D-day, the state election commission has lined up a series of meetings with the state police and officials deputed on election duty over the coming days to make fool-proof arrangements.

“We have directed all the deputy commissioners, superintendents of police, ACPs, DCPs, assistant returning officers and excise officials to monitor the various activities of political parties, their candidates and cadres so as to prevent misuse of official machinery, including government vehicles, distribution of money or liquor and any overt/covert means of influencing the electorate,” Vidyashankar said.

In the May 2008 assembly elections, Karnataka created a record of sorts when the model of conduct was violated resulting in seizure of cash and liquor for distribution to voters valued at a whopping Rs.460 million by the state election authority in the run-up to the three-phase polling.

“We have also directed the state government not to make any transfers unless instructed by the central election commission and keep in abeyance till the election process is completed the transfer orders issued before the code of conduct came into force,” Vidyashankar added.

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