ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Keeping Out Criminals

ELECTIONS in India, instead of a means of free and fair democratic choice, are becoming a source of widespread terror and violence for the common people. The serial bomb blasts in Coimbatore and the booth capturing and killings in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have set the tone for the general elections to the 12th Lok Sabha, In the face of all this, the behaviour of the Election Commission is fumbling, to say the least. It had earlier, on the eve of polling, assured the voters of safety guaranteed by large-scale security arrangements. When reports of ransacking of polling booths and killing of political workers began to pour in from different parts of the country on the first day of polling, chief election commis- sioner MS Gill was reported to have dismiss- ed them as 'minor incidents of violence' that had to be viewed in the perspective of an electorate of over 600 million. Soon after this, however, he had to order repoll in at least 1,500 booths spread over nine parliamentary constituencies in Bihar alone. In fact, fresh polls had to be ordered in the entire Patna Lok Sabha constituency. This was the fate of the first phase of the elections, which covered 222 seats in 15 states. The second phase of voting in 183 seats in nine states was yet to take place, which was to be marked by further violence and killings. Surely , these could not be regarded as 'minor incidents of violence', The Election Commission seems to have concentrated its attention on the north-east, apprehending trouble from the insurgent groups which had heralded their anti-election campaign by abducting candidates and killing paramilitary personnel. But curiously enough, the polling passed off smoothly in the north-east maybe because of the heavy presence of security forces which deterred the insurgent groups, as welI as the increasing popular frustration with these groups as evident from the high percentage of voter turnout in places like Tripura (80-85 per cent) indicating their defiance of the poll boycott call, Even in Assam, in spite of the strong presence of ULFA and its threats, the voter turnout was 42 per cent.

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