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Bihar Assembly elections will be held sometime in September-October: CEC

Bihar Assembly elections will be held sometime in September-October: CEC

New Delhi: Assembly elections in Bihar, where BJP is set for a battle against a united Janata Parivar, are likely to be held sometime in September-October when extensive central forces and a reworked expenditure monitoring system will be deployed to curb money and muscle power.

The electoral rolls will be ready on July 31, Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi said, terming the polls in Bihar as "mother of all elections".

Going by precedents, the election timings would be somewhere in September or October, he said, adding they are yet to begin the process on finalising a schedule.

He said the EC will have to take into account weather conditions, festivals, exams, holidays, heavy monsoon, heavy rains and floods before arriving at exact schedule.

Zaidi also refused to go into the number of phases in which the assembly polls will be held.

"Abuse of money is a big problem in Bihar. Therefore, this time we are going in for more systematic efforts. Certain legal amendments are yet to come from the Law Ministry. But within our powers, we have launched expenditure monitoring," Zaidi said.

He said the EC has undertaken mapping of all constituencies of Bihar into three categories. Where EC finds maximum sensitivity, it plans to deploy central police forces "well in time."

"We will identify this time persons who serve as a channel for distributing bribe or for distribution of liquor, distribution of gifts. This assessment is still going on and we hope to come up with a re-strategised expenditure monitoring which we will roll out at an appropriate time," he said.

The Commission would be using voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) in 36 of the 243 assembly constituencies. The CEC said the number of such constituencies could increase.

VVPAT is a method of providing feedback to voters using a ballotless voting system. An EVM will have a small attachment to it which after pressing the button for a desired candidate, will print that name on a paper. It will be stored inside the machine and can be used in case of any controversy over the final result.

Considering left-wing extremism that affects parts of the state, he said an assessment of central paramilitary forces is also going on.

"Because this is a stand alone election, I hope sufficient, adequate paramilitary forces will be made available. We will come out with a strategy on this."

Asked if he could specify the number of personnel in terms of companies, Zaidi said at an appropriate time the Commission will come out with a number.

"The only thing I could say that there would be a very effective use of CPMF, because this is a stand alone assembly election. There would be sufficient number of forces available."

Asked about the challenges in conduct of elections in India, he said this year the Commission is faced with Bihar.

"It is said to be the mother of all elections, if I can say so," he said, adding that some states like Bihar face three-four areas of major challenges.

"We must ensure extremely higher participation of voters and this is coupled with the fact that in some of these challenging states, the elections have to be free, means our voters in some pockets should not be intimidated, threatened, not to be victimised by."

"The muscle power has more or less disappeared. So that is one major challenge that we will face in Bihar also where there is a traditionally low turn out. In last elections, it was only 52 per cent," Zaidi said.

Zaidi said the second important challenge is the curb of abuse of money. He said bribing of voters, gifts and dopes and distribution of drugs and liquor are some of the manifestations of abuse of money power.

Dubbing paid news as a "disease", he said it was another manifestation of abuse of money power. "Under the states we have elections, we'll face these problems. Bihar faces all of these," he said.

Responding to a question, he said the due date of Bihar election is November 29 and elections under the Constitution can be held anytime six months before the due date.

"Going by the previous precedents, the election timings would be somewhere September or October. But exact dates we are yet to work out," he said.

He said the EC has undertaken measures in advance. On April 22, EC had deputed a team of Deputy ECs and DG (expenditure monitoring) for ground level assessment.

"The first and the most important task for Bihar elections would be to have have our electoral rolls which are error free and do not have multiple entries. we have launched our special summary revision from May 15 to July 15," he said.

The CEC said during the special summary revision, the state election machinery has undertaken detailed exercise of going down to the polling booth level.

Expecting a large number of multiple entries, Zaidi said they will be verified in the door-to-door process and later deleted after following due legal process.

"But at the same time we are ensuring that the names of such deleted persons are made available to political parties so that they also do their due diligence and will also be put up on website, read out in gram sabha level," he said.

During the summary revision, poll authorities will hold two special camps on May 24 and first week of June. "Finally, after going through the legal process, the final list will be published on July 31 of this year," he said.

He said an image assessment software has now been employed to detect multiple entries and it will be used in Bihar also.

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