For 2016 Assembly elections in Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Puducherry, the Election Commission on Friday scheduled the dates between April 4–May 16. Given that the polls are round the corner, the Chief Election Commissioner of India Nasim Zaidi on Friday stressed towards stricter and better rules for free and fair election, including women-only polling booths, NOTA button and scrutinizing paid news, among several others.
Here are the key highlights from Election Commission’s decree:
1. Elections for Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry will be held in a single phase on 16 May, whereas West Bengal and Assam will vote in six phases and two phases respectively. The counting of all the five assembly polls will be known on May 19.
2. Illumining the strength of voters, Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi said that about 17 crores voters will take part in this election. However, he requested the voters to check their names in the electoral list since more than 7 lakh dead and duplicate entries have been removed.
3. In all five states, the number of polling stations has been increased:
Assam ≈ 25,000
Kerala ≈ 21,500
Tamil Nadu ≈ 66,500
West Bengal ≈ 77,000
Puducherry ≈ 913; (where ‘≈’ refers ‘almost equal to’).
4. Commission has issued instructions to the Chief Electoral Officers of all states to ensure that every Polling Station is equipped with Basic Minimum Facilities (BMF) like drinking water, shed, toilet, ramp for the physically challenged voters and a standard voting compartment etc.
5. The Commission directed that in areas where women folk feel inhibited in mingling with male members because of some local custom or social practice, a separate polling station for women can be provided after getting the approval of the Election Commission.
6. In states which have the history of abuse of money, Commission will strengthen expenditure monitoring mechanisms. All flying squads and a mobile team will have central police forces and GPS traveling with them.
7. In the Balloting Unit, below the name of the last candidate, there will now be a button for NOTA option so that electors who do not want to vote for any of the candidates can exercise their option by pressing the button against NOTA.
8. In order to avoid confusion, the EC added a provision for printing the photograph of the candidate also on the ballot, which will be displayed on the EVM (Ballot Unit) and on Postal Ballot papers.
9. An effective monitoring of anti-social elements will be enforced, including seizure of arms and action against muscle men, Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi said. In Assam and West Bengal polling locations will be secured as far as possible by central police forces, he said.
10. These elections will see the infusion of new IT and mobile application, Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi said. These will be used for grievance redressal, webcasting, deployment of polling personnel, and dissemination of information.