With weeks to go for the announcement of the 17th Lok Sabha election dates, the Election Commission has begun preparations in the Northeastern states, a top election official said on Tuesday. "The Election Commission has been holding regular interactions with chief electoral officers (CEOs) and other concerned officials through video conferencing. But it is yet to inform us about its possible visit to the region," Tripura CEO Sriram Taranikanti told IANS.
"On Monday, Deputy Election Commissioner (in-charge of the Northeastern states) Sudeep Jain interacted with the CEOs, District Magistrates and superintendents of police of all districts of Tripura, Mizoram, Sikkim, Manipur and Nagaland through video conferencing and took an overview of the preparations," he said. Another Election Commission official, now visiting the Northeast, said that except Mizoram and Assam, the photo-affixed electoral rolls with January 1, 2019, as the qualifying date of age, had already been published in Tripura, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim.
"The Election Commission officials are training Returning Officers (District Magistrates) and Assistant Returning Officers (Additional District Magistrates or equivalent ranks) in Delhi in a phased manner. The technical facets of the EVMs (Electronic Voting Machines) and the VVPATs (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails) are also being shared by officials and technical experts." The official informed that CEOs of all the states had during a two-day meeting with the Commission in Delhi on January 11 and 12 made comprehensive presentations on their state of readiness.
"The Commission has visited major states across the country except the Northeastern ones to review the preparedness for the Lok Sabha elections," he added. Mizoram Chief Electoral Officer Ashish Kundra said that the state's final electoral rolls would be published on February 22.
"Over 6,000 claims have been filed for inclusion of new names," the CEO told the media in Aizawl on Tuesday. In another development, the Mizoram Bru Displaced People's Forum (MBDPF), the apex body of the 35,000 Reang tribal refugees sheltered in seven camps in northern Tripura after having fled the state 22 years ago, wrote to the Election Commission last week urging it to set up polling stations inside their camps during the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.
The Election Commission had set up 15 special polling stations at Kanhmun village along the Mizoram-Tripura border, allowing 12,018 voters among over 35,000 tribal immigrants to vote in the November 28 Assembly polls in Mizoram. Officials said the Commission may announce the election schedule sometime in March, while the polls are likely to take place in April and May.
To ensure that electioneering does not disturb students, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has announced the schedule for the class X and class XII exams. While the class X exams will start on February 21 and end on March 29, the class XII exams will be held between February 15 and April 3.
(With inputs from agencies.)