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Ensure peaceful civic polls: Guv

Dhankhar asks state poll commissioner to take steps to avoid rerun of 2018 panchayat poll violence.

Statesman News Service | Kolkata |

Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar asked State Election Commissioner Sourav Das to take necessary steps to ensure that the upcoming municipal polls are not violence-ridden and not a repetition of the scenario that was noticed in the panchayat elections held in May 2018. Das and commission secretary Nilanjan Sandilya reached Raj Bhawan at 11:30 a.m. today and the meeting continued for 20 minutes. During the meeting, Dhankhar told Das that “all steps need to be taken to ensure that there is no violence and the kind of scenario noticed in the panchayat elections held in May 2018. The polls then were reportedly hit with widespread violence”. He urged the commissioner to inform him regarding all the steps taken under Article 243(3) of the Constitution.

Dhankhar took stock of the arrangements for the polls so as to ensure peaceful, orderly and fair elections, which is scheduled to be held in the second or third week of April. He told the commissioner that “in required situations” the latter may “take recourse even to transferring officials … in the interest of ensuring fair and peaceful polls” and suggested that a prior engagement with the concerned administrative and police heads concerned would be wholesome and productive. “State Election Commission like the Election Commission of India is the de facto boss of the bureaucracy”, stated the release issued by Raj Bhawan.

Stressing on giving all parties equal opportunities and engaging in dialogue with all stakeholders, Dhankhar told that as a constitutional body the commission “is obligated to provide a level-playing field to all parties and candidates” and “focused that free and fair election giving all parties equal opportunities is at the heart of Democracy in its true spirit.” Under Article 243K, the commission has all the powers that Election Commission of India has under Article 324 of the Constitution wherein it has the authority and competence to ensure that one party doesn’t have an undue advantage over another just because it is in power, the release stated adding: “State Election Commission like the Election Commission of India is the de facto boss of the bureaucracy.”

He stressed that the commission should ensure level-playing field to all as it is fundamental and non-negotiable. “The State Election Commission must take all steps to dispel fears and impressions that it is an extension of the government and must engage in dialogue with all stakeholders,” the statement read. He stated that the State Election Commission needs to flag the issue to police and administrative authorities that any partisan approach would invite exemplary consequences.

Dhankhar expressed hope that “timely precautionary steps” by the commissioner would “prevent unwholesome scenario and instill confidence in the electorate” and called upon voters to exercise their right to vote fairly and fearlessly.

Meanwhile, Das informed Dhankhar that the Grievance Management System will be in place by the second week of March and the commission will hold a meeting with the District Magistrates on 4 March.