SRINAGAR Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora Monday asked J&K government officials to ensure that the upcoming Lok Sabha and the state assembly polls are held with “absolute neutrality” and remain “most inclusive” as per the “principles of democracy”.
Chief Election Commissioner Arora, who is on a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir along with an Election Commission team to take stock of the state’s poll readiness, gave this direction after a high-level meeting with the state government’s civil and police officials.
The officials who met the poll panel team included Kashmir Divisional Commissioner Baseer Ahmad Khan, ADGP (Law & Order) Muneer Ahmad Khan, Kashmir IGP S P Pani besides deputy commissioners and district police chiefs of Kashmir and Ladakh divisions.
“Elections are soon going to be held to uphold the principles of democracy. The commission desires that these elections should be the most inclusive (and are held with) absolute neutrality by the people involved in organising them,” he said.
CEC Arora asked officials to uphold the “principle of democracy”, notwithstanding the fact that, he said, “holding election in any part of India is a challenge because of various factors such as topography, population density, holidays, etc”.
The ECI team reviewed the state of preparedness of various departments of civil and police administration for ensuring free and fair elections, an official spokesman said.
The Commission asked state authorities to provide minimum assured facilities at polling booths and ensure that voters are able to reach there without any fear or hinderance, the spokesman said.
Arora also reviewed the poll preparedness in terms of transportation of EVMs and polling material to the booths, besides the deployment of staff on the election day, he said.
The Commission asked the authorities to mobilise people and create an atmosphere free of inducement and intimidation by deploying sufficient security personnel on the ground, the spokesman said.
The Commission also stressed upon the state authorities to strictly monitor the candidates’ poll expenditures and ensure that they do not breach the expenditure limits.
“The limit of expenditure is Rs 70 lakh for the Lok Sabha election and Rs 28 lakh for the state assembly poll (per candidate),” Deputy Election Commissioner Sandeep Saxena said.
Saxena said the action should be taken against those indulging in inducement and illegal gratification to voters.
Commission asked the state administration to demonstrate EVMs and VVPATs operations to stakeholders such as political parties and candidates to ensure transparency.
“You should share the location of strong-rooms with the stakeholders, parties and candidates to prevent any suspicion,” Saxena added.
The ECI team left for Jammu this evening where they will be conducting a similar exercise Tuesday.
In Jammu, the ECI team will also meet Chief Secretary B V R Subrahmanyam and DGP Dilbag Singh separately in the state’s winter capital.
Before winding up their visit, the ECI team is scheduled to address a press conference at Jammu on Tuesday.