Srinagar, March 4 (IANS) Chief Election Commissioner of India Sunil Arora on Monday said that the upcoming Lok Sabha elections should be the most inclusive with absolute neutrality by people organising them.
In his opening remarks during the Commission’s meeting with political leaders here, he said, “Elections are soon going to be held to uphold the principles of democracy. The Commission desires that these elections should be the most inclusive with absolute neutrality by people involved in organising them.
“Holding election in any part of India is a challenge because of various factors such as topography, population density, holidays, etc.”
The CEC arrived here Monday along with Election Commissioners Ashok Lavasa and Sushil Chandra. Deputy Election Commissioner Sandeep Saxena had reached here earlier.
An official statement said that the EC team began its visit by meeting representatives of various political parties in Kashmir Valley to seek their opinion regarding the elections.
Besides the CEC, the Election Commissioners and Deputy Election Commissioner, the team included the poll panel’s Director General Dilip Kumar, ADG Sheyphali Sharan, Director Nikhil Kumar, and state Chief Electoral Officer Shailendra Kumar.
The meeting was attended by representatives of the National Conference, the Peoples Democratic Party, the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Communist Party of India-Marxist, the Peoples Democratic Front, the Democratic Party Nationalist, the National Panthers Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Communist Party of India, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Awami Itihad Party.
The PDP, the NC and the Congress demanded that the elections to the state assembly be held along with the Lok Sabha elections.
“The CEC gave a patient hearing to their concerns and assured that they will be taken care of in due process of time,” the statement said.
The EC team also held a marathon meeting with the civil administration and police officials including Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Baseer Ahmad Khan, Additional Director General of Police, Law and Order, Muneer Ahmad Khan, Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, S.P. Pani, and Deputy Commissioners and district police chiefs of Kashmir and Ladakh divisions.
“The ECI team reviewed the state of preparedness of various departments of civil and police administration for ensuring free and fair elections,” the statement said, adding the Commission asked the state authorities to provide minimum assured facilities at polling stations and ensure that voters are able to reach them without any fear or hindrance.
“The CEC also reviewed the preparedness in terms of transportation of EVMs and polling material to the booths and deployment of staff on the day of the election.
“The Commission asked the state authorities to mobilise people and create inducement-free and intimidation-free atmosphere by ensuring sufficient number of security persons on ground.”
The state authorities were also asked to ensure that the expenditure by candidates during the election process is monitored to prevent any illegality.
“The limit of expenditure is Rs 70 lakh for Lok Sabha election and Rs 28 lakh for state assembly election,” Deputy Election Commissioner Saxena said, adding that action should be taken against those indulging in inducement and illegal gratification to voters.
The Commission also asked the state administration to conduct operations on EVMs and VVPATs in presence of stakeholders such as political parties and candidates to ensure transparency.”
“Share location of strong-rooms with stakeholders/parties/candidates to prevent any suspicion,” Saxena said.
The poll panel team then left for Jammu where they will be conducting similar exercise on Tuesday.
They will also meet Chief Secretary B.V.R. Subrahmanyam and Director General of Police Dilbag Singh separately and hold a press conference later.