Assam will go through a three-phase Assembly polls beginning March 27 and the elections will be over ahead of the Bohag Bihu – the biggest festival of the State. Earlier, the State mostly had two-phase elections but this schedule marks a departure from convention which is expected to ease the poll conduct process. While the first phase will be held on March 27, the second and thirds phases are slated for April 1 and April 6 respectively. The State will have to wait for quite a while for the counting and the results, which will take place on May 2 when counting will take place in all the five States and UTs that are going to the polls. The break-up of the polls into three zones – Upper Assam, Barak Valley and Lower Assam – should make it convenient for the poll machinery to conduct the election smoothly.
Poll-time invariably brings with it myriad challenges for the Election Commission and the administration to ensure that the all-important exercise of electing the people’s representatives remain free and fair. It is far from an easy task, more so in a populous and developing country like India where illiteracy and poverty are still dominant. The political parties are known to play every trick under their sleeves to woo the electorate. The situation tends to negate the principles of free and fair polls when the parties seek to lure voters with money and muscle power. The ruling party often tries to secure an advantage by using the administrative machinery at its disposal. The EC has its task cut out and it needs to put a strict eye on the activities of the parties and intervene immediately and firmly whenever any undesirable acts of omission and commission on the part of the parties are detected. It calls for deployment of special observers in adequate numbers to monitor the expenditures by the parties and also on the law and order situation. In the exercise of the plenary powers conferred on it, the EC deploys special observers who belong to All India Services and various Central Services and are supposed to be free from the influence of the State Government. To have expenditure observers in sufficient numbers for exclusively monitoring the election expenditure of the contesting candidates is another imperative. With the model code of conduct coming to force immediately after the announcement of the poll dates, there should be strict monitoring of the activities of the parties and candidates, especially the ruling party and the Government.