Election Commission gears up for counting of votes on Friday

Election Commission gears up for counting of votes on Friday

An elaborate three tier security arrangement has been put in place for the exercise, which would start at 8 AM involving 43,982 officials and nearly 17,700 central security personnel keeping a hawk eyed vigil.

"By early lunch", was the response of Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi when asked when the first result is expected of the keenly contested elections.The entire exercise, which would decide the fate of several political heavyweights, would be videographed to prevent any malpractice, the CEC told reporters.

"Efficient and secure arrangements are in place for counting and declaration of results", he said, adding that a computer centre would be functional within the counting hall.
Quraishi said that counting would take place in 142 counting halls in Assam, 140 in Kerala, 11 in Puducherry, 234 in Tamil Nadu and 312 in West Bengal.

Elaborating the massive exercise of conducting the polls in five states with "all time record turnout in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal", the CEC said a total of 14.16 crore electors exercised their franchise which was 20 per cent of the total 72.8 crore electorate.Quraishi said that Assam saw a voter turnout of 76.04 per cent, an increase of 0.36 per cent over the 2006 Assembly polls and Kerala 75.12 per cent, a jump of 3.79 per cent and Puducherry 85.57 per cent, an increase of 0.13 per cent.

Tamil Nadu and West Bengal witnessed the "highest turnout in history" of 78.80 per cent and 84.46 per cent respectively, an increase of 11.26 per cent and 3.04 per cent over the 2006 assembly polls, he said.

Except Assam, women came out in large numbers to exercise their franchise in Kerala, Puducherry, West Bengal.

Referring to the menace of money power in elections, Quraishi said the Commission and the Income Tax authorities jointly seized a total of 74.27 crore unaccounted money in these elections.

Tamil Nadu alone accounted for Rs 60.10 crore, followed by West Bengal Rs 8.35 crore, Assam Rs 5.20 crore, Kerala Rs 62 lakh.

The CEC said that "inducement of voters through distribution of money and in kind", paid news, voter apathy specially among youth and urban educated and security arrangement in Naxal-hit areas were some of the major challenges that the EC encountered in these elections.

There was no appeal on communal or caste lines, no provocative speech to incite voters and there was no serious hate speeches this time, he said while thanking the political parties for their cooperation.

Quraishi said for the first time 4,639 Overseas Voters, out of 8,820 registered, exercised their franchise in the assembly polls in Kerala and one of them even contested from Thodupuzha in Idukki district in the state.

While former President A P J Abdul Kalam, cricketers M S Dhoni and Sourav Ganguly served as 'Brand Ambassadors', the EC also used the services of 20 well-known film stars, artistes and athletes to increase voter awareness.