M A I N   N E W S

EC not to let ball hit ballot
R. Suryamurthy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 17
Cricket fever seems to be spreading much before the subcontinent rivals India and Pakistan pad up and toss the coin. Even the Election Commission seems to have caught it.

As the much talked about tussle of the bat and the ball would be held in March and April in Pakistan, the poll panel is closely monitoring the match schedule before finalising the poll dates.

EC sources say if the poll dates clash with the contest between Rawalpindi Express Shoaib Akthar and master blaster Sachin Tendulkar, the voter turnout could be very low.

The commission officials are not worried for nothing. During the 1999 General Election, when the poll date clashed with a cricket match, the voter turnout was low in one of the prestigious constituencies, Lucknow, where Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the candidate.

Till 1 pm, there was only 11 per cent voting. Then some political leaders approached the cable operators and asked them to stop the telecast, which had dramatic effect. By the end of the day, the percentage went up to 45.

Since the tour schedule is expected to be announced before the commission declares the polling dates, the EC is likely to take that into consideration.

The sources say the commission is not obliged to go by the cricket itinerary. But if it can be factored in, it will be a smart decision in a cricket-crazy nation.

Indications are that the polling would be held in mid-April and would conclude before May 10. It is also expected that the polling would be held in four phases. Southern India and the north-eastern states would complete the polling process in the first two phases as monsoon hits Kerala by May 1.

Several states like Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh would have multi-phased voting as several constituencies are highly sensitive.



Election schedule likely this weekend
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 17
The schedule for the 14th Lok Sabha elections could be announced this weekend, Election Commission sources said today, adding that the polling would begin by April 17 and be over by May 5.

The three-member commission, after a detailed discussion on election preparedness, told reporters that it would meet Home Secretary Anil Baijal on Thursday to apprise him of the overall scenario. It would be followed on Friday with a meeting of all recognised political parties.

The day after that, the details of the poll schedule could be announced, the sources said.

The Centre had advised the commission that decks had to be cleared by April 17 for the polling exercise to begin. It also said that the process must be completed within 15 days.

The sources said the polls should be over by May 5 so that the Lok Sabha was constituted by May 10. The Railway and the General Budgets could be presented by May 20. The two budgets are expected to be passed by July 3. Meanwhile, with today’s discussions with the Jammu and Kashmir officials, the EC has completed its meetings-held in three rounds-with all Chief Secretaries and Directors-General of Police.

The Jammu and Kashmir Government suggested four-phased polling for Parliamentary elections in the militancy-hit state.

State Chief Secretary S.S. Billowria and Director-General of Police Gopal Sharma conveyed this during their meeting with the Election Commission here, the sources said.

During the meeting, the officials also apprised the commission about the security situation in the state.

They urged that the polling be held in four phases, as this would give time for the movement of security personnel from one place to another, the sources said.

The Chief Election Commissioner, Mr T.S. Krishnamurthy and the two Commissioners, Mr N.Gopalaswami and Mr B.B. Tandon, were present at the meeting. Systems adopted during the previous polls were also discussed, they said.

With this EC has completed its consultations with all states and asked them to report violations of the model code of conduct and election rules without “any delay, pressure or fear”.

The commission has held a series of meetings with all states before deciding the schedule for the elections.

The commission has asked the Chief Secretaries and DGPs to report on the requirement of security forces. It has also asked them to identify sensitive booths and the need for new ones.

State governments have been asked to immediately fill the vacancies of returning officers and other election staff immediately.


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