Saturday, August 3, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

J&K poll in Sept, Oct
CEC promises fair poll, rejects foreign observers
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 2
The Election Commission today announced a four-phase polling for the 87-seat Jammu and Kashmir Assembly, the term of which is due to expire on October 17, and categorically rejected demands for posting foreign observers for the elections in the strife-torn state.

The first phase of polling will be on September 16, the second on September 24, the third on October 1 and the fourth on October 8, 2002, Mr Lyngdoh told a crowded press conference here.

The counting of votes will be taken up on October 10 and the entire election process will be over by October 12, five days ahead of the expiry of the term of the Legislative Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir, Mr Lyngdoh, flanked by Election Commissioners T.S. Krishnamurthy and B.B. Tandon, said.

The formal notification for the elections for the first phase will be issued on August 22, while that for the second phase will be issued on August 31, for third phase on September 6 and for the last phase on September 13.

The last date for filing nominations will be August 29 for the first phase, September 7 for the second phase, September 13 for the third and September 20 for the fourth phase. Scrutiny will be conducted on August 31 for the first phase, September 9 for the second phase, September 14 for the third and September 21 for the fourth phase.

In the first phase, 26 Assembly constituencies located in the districts of Kupwara, Baramula, Leh, Kargil, Rajouri and Poonch will go to the polls. In the second phase, elections will be held for 28 seats in the districts of Srinagar, Badgam and Jammu.

In the third phase, polling will be held for 27 constituencies in the districts of Pulwama, Anantnag, Kathua and Udhampur, and in the fourth and final phase, polling will be held in six Assembly constituencies located in Doda district.

The Model Code of Conduct comes into force with immediate effect and this will be applicable to all political parties and to the state and Union Governments, Mr Lyngdoh said.

The Election Commission’s announcement comes a day after a team led by Mr Krishnamurthy completed the assessment of the law and order situation in the militancy-hit state.

The entire polling will be held through electronic voting machines (EVMs) and for the first time, Kashmiri migrants settled at various camps in Jammu, Udhampur and Delhi will get a chance to vote in person as the commission has decided to set up special polling stations in these three places.

“Keeping in view the convenience of the voters living in camps and also nearby, special polling stations will be set up at six places in Jammu — Gandhinagar, Janipur, Muthi, Chandrabagha (Canal Road), Agricultural Complex (Gole Puli, Talab Tilo) and Nagrota; one polling station in migrant camp in Udhampur and two polling stations — Tis Hazari Courts and Office of the Resident Commissioner, Jammu and Kashmir — in Delhi,” Mr Lyngdoh said.

Declaring the commission’s resolve to conduct the “fairest ever” poll to the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly, the Chief Election Commissioner categorically rejected demands for the posting of foreign observers.

In a sharp reaction to the demand for posting international observers, Mr Lyngdoh said, “In this day and age, there is no question of the White Man coming to observe what the Native is doing...The White Man does not determine what the Coloured Man does and whether he is doing it right or wrong. They are not superior to us.”

Stating that the Election Commission of India was competent to conduct free and fair elections, Mr Lyngdoh said while foreigners, including members of the national election commissions and embassies of other countries, were welcome to watch the elections in their individual capacity, there was no question of them “observing” or “monitoring” the elections.

The CEC pointed out that under the Indian election laws, senior civil servants were appointed observers by the Election Commission of India to monitor the conduct of polling and ensure the implementation of the commission’s directions. “There was, thus, absolutely no scope for any foreigner to oversee the election process,” he added.

Enumerating a slew of measures taken by the commission to ensure a free and fair poll, Mr Lyngdoh said the commission had already circulated updated and computerised electoral rolls in Urdu. He said, 8,000 EVMs had been made available, voters, members of political parties and polling officials were being trained to use EVMs, the issue of high security voter identity cards to voters. The distribution of voter identity slips by the Chief Electoral Officer, an increase in the number of polling stations to reduce inconvenience to voters, deployment of “hand picked” election observers ahead of the polling and a more equitable security cover for candidates contesting the polls are among the other steps.

To ensure the smooth functioning of EVMs and promote confidence among candidates and voters, the commission has decided to depute two officials out of the four comprising each polling party, from Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, to Jammu and Kashmir for the conduct of the poll.

Officials of Punjab and Uttar Pradesh are well versed with the functioning of EVMs, having conducted the recent elections in those states in February, 2002, by using these machines, Mr Lyngdoh said.

To a question on whether the Election Commission would be in a better position to hold a free and fair poll in Jammu and Kashmir under Governor’s rule, the CEC said “Right now Governor’s rule is not there...if the Governor turns out to be one-sided, then he would be much worse than an elected government.”


Centre to send more forces to J&K

New Delhi, August 2
The Centre would dispatch additional security forces to Jammu and Kashmir for the Assembly poll there, Deputy Prime Minister L. K. Advani said today.

“Additional security forces necessary for the elections will be sent,” he told reporters here while replying to questions.

The J and K Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah, had requested Mr Advani last month to consider his demand for additional forces for deployment in the run-up to and during the elections. PTI




Gujarat poll not EC’s first priority
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 2
Chief Election Commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh today indicated that the Gujarat elections may not be clubbed with the Assembly poll in Jammu and Kashmir. “We are not thinking about Gujarat at the moment. We have sent a team to Gujarat to assess the situation there. Let us wait for its return,” Mr Lyngdoh told newspersons here.

Asking mediapersons not to engage him in a game of chess, the CEC said the commission was at present engaged in conducting elections in Jammu and Kashmir. “Don’t throw another problem at me while I am dealing with the first one,” he said, adding that “I do not want to think about Gujarat at the moment.” 

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