Long poll process unwarranted

The long poll schedule extending for over a month, announced by the Election Commission for the five states of Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Manipur, does not strengthen the idea of keeping elections lean and clean. In the past also, the commission has stretched the election process for long periods when there was no clear and justifiable need for it. The polling exercise will now start with single day elections in Punjab, Uttarakhand and Goa on February 4 and go through two phases in Manipur and seven phases in UP. After the last phase concludes on March 8, results for all states will be announced on March 11. All those who are involved in the elections like the candidates, party workers and others are put to great difficulty when the poll process is long and arduous. The physical, mental
and economic impact is very high and unwarranted.

The main reason given for holding polling in many phases is that security can better be ensured in polling booths with adequate deployment of central forces. This argument is not as strong as it was once, because violence and disruption of polling have come down in most areas of the country in recent times. Even if it is conceded that there should not be any complacency in the matter, too many phases are not needed when only a few states go to the polls. It may be necessary to stagger polling over a period when elections are held in the whole country and security forces have to be moved from region to region. With communication facilities and logistics much better than in the past, deployment of adequate forces for one-day or two-day polling is not difficult even in a large state like UP.

It is also more economical.The advantages of a short duration poll process and campaign are many. It will help reduce spending on elections and also avoid waste of time, energy and other resources. It is unfair to keep voters and candidates waiting for results for a long period. It is over a month for the states that go to the polls on the first day. The Commission has to ensure for a long period that the model code of conduct is not violated. The voting machines have to be kept in safe custody for many weeks. Since the code of conduct is in operation for many weeks, the normal functioning of the government stops during that period. This is being unfair to the people. The Commission should have considered all these and decided on a shorter poll schedule for the five states.

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