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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

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Polls 2009
Parties want single phase
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 3
Their much-publicised differences notwithstanding, Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami and Election Commissioner Navin Chawla today got down to the business of smooth conduct of the Lok Sabha polls. In this connection, they met representatives of national and regional parties here. This is part of the review process before the Election Commission announces the final poll schedule.

Tension was palpable as both Gopalaswami and Chawla smiled for the cameras, without looking at each other, just before the meeting commenced. Though no party directly referred to the standoff resulting from the CECís recommendation to remove Chawla, it was broadly suggested during the meeting that the EC should not give an impression that it is a divided house. Neutrality, integrity and objectivity of the constitutional body should be maintained, parties pointed out. The other Election Commissioner SY Quraishi made a suo motu statement on how he had been misquoted in a report from London about possible dates for polling. Referring to the CEC-EC rift, BJPís Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi ó while talking to the reporters after the meeting ó claimed that the Congress was protecting an individual, whereas the BJP was defending an institution.

Various parties opposed holding of Lok Sabha polls in multiple phases, stating that it does not provide a level-playing field to smaller parties. The opinion is to hold elections in one go in smaller states like Punjab, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, among others.

The three-member EC assured parties that the electronic voting machines were tamper-proof. Both the Congress and the BJP made a strong pitch for an effective mechanism to curb surrogate advertisements. Kapil Sibal of the Congress said some times advertisements appear in the form of news. CPMís Sitaram Yechury said the entire election procedure should be over in three weeks. The CPM has asked the EC to ensure that special observers donít overreach their position and authority.

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