Protracted polls unfair to people

Protracted polls unfair to people

The Election Commission’s decision to spread out assembly elections in four states and one Union Territory over a period of one month puts a lot of strain on all participants – like candidates, workers, political parties and voters – in the process. Elections will start on April 4 in West Bengal, which will have a six-phase polling, and conclude on May 16 in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The stretching of the process over a long period works against the idea of free and fair elections. A long run-up to the polling day gives an unfair advantage to candidates who have better financial and organisational resources because they have greater reach than less endowed ones. It creates an uneven electoral field and the resulting inequality robs the election of a degree of fairness and freedom.

In West Bengal, the first phase will be held on April 4 and the last phase after a month on May 5. In Assam, the polling days are April 4 and 11. In Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry, polling will be held on a single day on May 16. But the counting of votes is on May 19 for all states. It is on the argument that security forces have to be moved across regions that polling is staggered over weeks. This argument has some merit when elections are held all over the country but not in the present round. West Bengal is the only state where there is an apprehension of threats to normal conduct of elections. There will not be any logistical and man-power problems in deploying security forces in adequate strength for a single or two-phase polling in the state. They do not have to be moved across the country.

The long poll process would result in an avoidable waste of time, energy, money and other resources. Poll expenditure will also go up many times. The commission has to watch for violation of the model code of conduct for a long time. Candidates and voters will have to wait anxiously for the results for about a month and a half after the first phase. Ideally, results should be announced within a day or two of polling. Keeping the voting machines
under strict security over a long period is another challenge. Since the code of conduct is in operation for a long time, the normal functioning of the government stops for months in states where elections are held last. This is being unfair to the people of such states. An unnecessarily long period of poll fever is unhealthy, and the campaign is in searing summer. 

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