Will make TN Assembly elections inducement-free: EC

Will make Tamil Nadu Assembly elections inducement-free: Election Commission

ECI Secretary-General Sinha admitted that Tamil Nadu is an "expenditure sensitive" state and that the EC would use technology to avoid inducement of voters

Representative image. Credit: iStockPhoto

The number of polling stations for the Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu due in the first half of 2021 will increase significantly with the Election Commission of India (ECI) planning to restrict the number of voters in each booth to 1,000, due to Covid-19.

At the end of the two-day consultative meeting with political parties, state government officials, and other stakeholders, Umesh Sinha, Secretary-General of ECI, told reporters on Tuesday that the agency will take every step to ensure that the 2021 Assembly election in Tamil Nadu remains “inducement-free” and “influence-free”.

Sinha admitted that Tamil Nadu is an “expenditure-sensitive” state and said the ECI would use technology to the hilt to prevent any sort of inducement of the voters. Tamil Nadu is notorious for distributing cash for votes and the state has witnessed cancellation of elections in a few constituencies in 2016 Assembly elections and 2019 Lok Sabha polls after “money flow” could not be controlled.

The by-elections to Dr R K Nagar constituency in Chennai was also rescinded in 2017 due to rampant bribing of voters. In 2019 polls too, there were complaints of large-scale distribution of money to voters across the state.

“Tamil Nadu is an expenditure sensitive state and we really need to make this election inducement-free and influence-free. Strict measures will be taken to ensure (voters are not bribed),” Sinha said, adding that most political parties in Tamil Nadu have sought single-phase polling.

However, he said, the ECI will take a final call on the election process. Sinha also said nothing can be said about whether elections in Tamil Nadu will be advanced.

He said the number of polling stations will increase as enough steps are being taken to ensure social distancing at booths. Sinha said a polling station will not have more than 1,000 voters. “All (pandemic) measures taken during Bihar polls will be implemented here too,” he added. In 2016 Assembly elections, the state had over 65,000 polling booths. 

The tenure of the current Assembly ends on May 24, but the ruling AIADMK has suggested holding of elections in the third or fourth week of April to avoid peak summer. Asked about concerns being expressed by several political parties on allowing citizens older than 80 years of age to vote via postal ballots, Sinha said the ECI will come up with a Standard Operating Procedure.