Election Commission gears up for 2019 Lok Sabha Polls

By TN Ashok. Dated: 3/13/2019 11:42:50 PM

No sooner than the 16thLokSabha, adjourned sine die on Feb 13, the Election Commission (EC) started its strategy and paper work on how to conduct the 2019 General Elections in Free, Fair and Transparent manner. The most important highlight of this exercise is that the EC wants strong action against fake news being used to promote ones electoral fortunes.
With the proliferation of TV channels and hundreds and thousands of web portals, twitteratti excess (like paparazzi excess), it has become extremely difficult for the people to decipher what's is genuine news and what's fake news. On the face of it, its easy to make out something as fake news if it's a large exaggeration of an event. Let's take a look how EC is facing this problem and other issues it wants to strictly enforce and the candidates to adhere to.
One of the main actions is to probe the proliferation of Fake News. The Delhi chief electoral officer was directed to seek action against unnamed persons and entities under relevant laws to prevent spreading of rumours, media reports quote official sources as having said.
1st thing was that The Election Commission directed Thursday the Delhi chief electoral officer (CEO) to ask the city police to investigate the "fake news" of LokSabha poll schedule being circulated on social media.The CEO was also asked to seek action against unnamed persons and entities under relevant laws to prevent spreading of rumours. The fake news on the election schedules had been circulating on social media networks like Facebook and WhatsApp for the past one week.
The office of the CEO Thursday issued a letter to the Delhi Police, asking it to investigate the matter and take "immediate necessary action". "It is brought to your kind notice that fake news related to the schedule of general election 2019, has been found in circulation on various social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp etc." the letter circulated by the media reads.
The Delhi CEO office said the publication of such "fake news" is causing severe confusion to the public, thereby creating "public nuisance and mischief". "Accordingly, I am directed to request you to investigate the matter and take immediate necessary actions against unnamed persons and entities under relevant laws," it said.
The action taken in this regard "may be informed to the undersigned for perusal of CEO, Delhi and onwards submission to the Election Commission," the letter, written by a senior isofficial quoted as saying. Now, The Election Commission is now preparing to lockdown the nations massive polling framework to ensure that it's completely sanitised and ready for voters in the first week of May, when one hopes elections will start kicking in. The dates have neither been announced nor finalised as yet.
In a letter to all the chief secretaries and police heads of the states, the EC said officers directly related with conducting the elections cannot be posted in their home districts, and had set February 28 as the deadline for rearranging their duties and new posting destinations, if necessary.
Any officer who has completed three years in the same place cannot continue there if the person has to be tasked with election duties, the EC has said. All officers on poll duties will have to give an undertaking to the district election officers that he or she is not related to any candidate and there is no criminal case against them.
The model code of conduct will kick in after the February 28 deadline. This means the state governments and their administrative arms have only one month to tidy up for free and fair elections. The Election Commission is likely to announce the poll schedule in the first week of March and people are eagerly waiting for what is expected to be the most closely fought and bitterest elections ever in Indian political history.
The EC has asked the Home Ministry, which controls all Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs), the number of personnel it can give to conduct the LokSabha elections, sources indicated. They said some 1.25 lakh personsmay be available for election duties, and using this information the EC will decide how many phases it would need to conduct the national elections.
With the term of the Sikkim assembly ending on May 27, and that of Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and Odisha ending in June, the EC is likely to have a plateful as it is also putting together a team to visit Jammu and Kashmir - currently under President's Rule, after the BJP pulled-out from an alliance with Mehbooba Mufti's PDP and axed the state government - to see whether the state elections can be held simultaneously with the national elections.
An intense scrutiny of the election process has begun this year with several opposition party leaders having their own reservations against using electronic voting machines (EVMs). The EC has said allegations of fallible EVMs are false and malicious attempts to cast doubt on the robust, fool proof system will be dealt with strictly.
The conduct of political parties and candidates during the polls mainly with respect to speeches, polling day, polling booths, portfolios, election manifestos, processions and general conduct. These set of norms has been evolved with the consensus of political parties who have consented to abide by the principles embodied in the said code in its letter and spirit.
The Model Code of Conduct comes into force immediately on announcement of the election schedule by the commission on the need of ensuring free and fair elections. Much of it is designed to avert communal clashes and corrupt practices. For example, politicians should not make hate speeches, pitching one community against another or make promises about new projects that may swing away a voter.
"The Model Code of Conduct(MCC) is crucial to make sure a level playing field among various contenders in the poll fray," EC says.
The EC has identified unchecked money power as one of the biggest concerns and has been rooting for capping party and campaign expenditure to ensure a level playing field for all parties and to check the money power visible during every election. While the EC has been unable to cap a political party's expenditure in an election, it has put expenditure limit on candidates - Rs 50-70 lakh for each LokSabha candidate and Rs 20-28 lakh for an assembly candidate.
Recently, at an all-party meeting in August, the EC received significant support for the proposal, prompting it to write to the ministry again. However, a key factor in the way could be the ruling BJP's position on the issue. The BJP was conspicuous in opposing any capping at the August 27 meeting. The BJP then said "political campaigns led by parties are agenda-based" and "if this is limited, it would encourage politics based on caste, and individual influence", An ET report said.
Currently, there is no cap on the amount a political party can spend in an election or on a candidate. Now it remains to be seen how the EC will check money power, muscle power, fake news and a host of divergent deviations that take place during every election to exercise its judgement on which segment political parties have violated the EC procedures and is liable to whatever action that they have to face, Do we have Mr TN Seshan around , who was nicknamed Bull Dog Seshan, the way he hounded political parties for violations.
Because 2019 polls is going to be most fiercely fought out elections.



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