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NRC, electoral rolls separate issues: Zaidi

By Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, Dec 22 - The Election Commission of India (EC) today said that all efforts will be made to ensure free, fair and transparent polling in the forthcoming elections to the Assam Legislative Assembly, even as it made clear that the process of NRC update is separate from that of preparation of electoral rolls.

�NRC is an independent process which is being conducted under orders from the Supreme Court. The Election Commission is not mandated to find out about the NRC. However, during our deliberations here over the past two days we have received representations from some organisations, including AASU, regarding the NRC. We have also been briefed by officials regarding the NRC process,� Chief Election Commissioner Dr Nasim Zaidi told reporters here at the conclusion of the two-day visit of the Commission to Assam.

He added, �NRC process is still going on. As and when it is completed we will look into the matter.�

Zaidi was replying to a query regarding the appeal by some organisations to prepare the electoral rolls based on the final NRC.

He said that the term of the current Legislative Assembly will end on June 5, 2016, and the Commission is obliged under the Constitution to complete the entire election process before that date.

The three-member Commission, comprising Zaidi and Election Commissioners Achal Kumar Joti and Om Prakash Rawat, besides other ECI officials, held detailed deliberations with various political parties, other organisations, administration and police officials, and other stakeholders during its deliberations here over the last two days as part of the review process on election preparedness in the run-up to the polls.

Zaidi, however, refused to fix a time-frame for announcing the election dates and said various factors like festivals, examinations and weather, among others, will be taken into account.

He said that during their meeting with the EC, political parties raised a number of issues and concerns.

The parties called upon the Commission to ensure a level-playing field for all contestants, deployment of Central observers to ensure strict adherence with the Model Code of Conduct, deployment of Central forces at the maximum number of polling booths, installation of CCTVs, webcasting and micro-observers in the polling stations, action against anti-social elements in the run-up to the elections, deposition of licensed weapons and seizure of illegal arms, and tough stand against use of money and muscle power during the entire process.

The parties also called upon the EC to ensure that all officials involved in the poll process remain impartial and also for the system of Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) to be used in the maximum number of polling stations.

�The parties also said that the poll process should get over well before the Bihu festival. We have noted the suggestions and concerns expressed by them,� Zaidi said.

He said any biased or partial attitude by officials will not be tolerated and a robust strategy is being evolved to deal with use of money and muscle power.

During its meetings with officials, the EC laid emphasis on preparation of an error-free electoral roll and on eliminating the gap between the voters� list and Census figures.

Zaidi said that the draft electoral rolls released in October this year include the names of 1.92 crore voters in Assam and another 3.24 lakh names have been added during the summary revision so far. There are also six lakh new voters in the age group of 18-19 years.

He said that maximum emphasis is being placed on enrolling new voters in the 18-19 years� age groups and also on ensuring that all voters are able to secure photo I-cards.

The final electoral rolls will be released on January 11, with all the data available online and there will be provision for continuous update.

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