The full Commission, which came to Assam in its first visit to any state after announcing the Lok Sabha poll dates, also directed the police to seize all licenced and illegal arms in order to ensure free and fair elections in the state. (Agencies)
"Some political parties requested us to change the dates of April 7 and 12 for polling in Assam. Unfortunately we cannot agree. We cannot have the luxury while conducting such a national election," Chief Election Commissioner VS Sampath said at a press conference in Guwahati.
Flanked by the two Election Commissioners HS Brahma and SNA Zaidi, Sampath said that the parties are arguing that April 7 is 'Ashokastami', while April 12 is just two days ahead of Bihu festival.
"These two days are not even restricted holidays in Assam. During the poll days, we will have holidays and people will come out to vote," he added.
The Lok Sabha elections for 14 seats in Assam will be held on April 7, 12 and 24, while counting will take place along with the entire country on May 16.
Talking about measures that the Commission is taking to have a conducive atmosphere for polling, Sampath said "We have asked the police for deposition of all licenced arms along with seizure of all illegal arms. We don't want the voters to be intimidated in any way."
He further said that the Commission has asked the concerned authorities to have vulnerable mapping of areas and then to provide security so that people living in those areas are not threatened and they can come and vote.
Commenting on the preparedness of the state machinery to conduct this mammoth exercise, Sampath said, "This is the first visit of the full Commission to any state after announcing the dates of the polls. Overall, the Commission has satisfaction that the machinery has geared up to hold free and fair elections in Assam."
Mentioning about the 'D' (doubtful/disputed/dubious) voters, the CEC said the matter would be decided by an appropriate tribunal and urged the state government to expedite solving the issue.
The Commission also took note of the grievance of some parties about complaint redressal system and asked authorities concerned to make it speedy and increase the number of phone lines.
On various schemes launched by the government, Sampath clarified, "We have told the DCs that except those which benefit people for natural calamities or supply of fertilizers and seeds or other unavoidable goods, no other items will be allowed to be distributed."
The Commission has also asked the authorities to keep an eye on distribution of cash, liquor, mosquito nets, blankets and other items to people, especially among the tea tribes in Upper Assam, he informed.
Besides, all those officials who have served three years or more and will be involved in the election process, have to be transferred before the polls, Sampath said.
"We have given clear directions that the Commission will exhibit zero tolerance to those who show deviation from neutrality. DCs and SPs are directed to tell it to lower officials and we have requested the political parties to bring to our notice any such incident. We will take action," he added.
Talking about facilities in the polling stations, Sampath said that as the elections would be held during summer, shades, drinking water, lighting and ramp for physically challenged persons will be provided.
On complaints by political parties on multiple clearances required to hold meetings, rallies and other functions, he said, "We have asked the state Chief Election Officer and
other authorities concerned to set up single window clearance system so that there is no need to go to different agencies."
Besides all recognized national and state political parties, the full Commission also held discussions with the Chief Secretary, DGP, Home Secretary, Railways officials, Income Tax Department representatives, and DCs and SPs of all the districts of Assam.
With 4.5 lakh first time voters, Assam will see a total of 1.87 crore electors exercising their franchise to elect the representatives in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls in April-May.
The state will have its first election with Election Photo Identity Card (EPIC).
The full Commission, which came to Assam in its first visit to any state after announcing the Lok Sabha poll dates, also directed the police to seize all licenced and illegal arms in order to ensure free and fair elections in the state.