The Election Commission of India is undergoing a crucial meeting today to finalise the schedule for Assembly polls in four states and one in Union Territory later this year. The fourth states are West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The lone UT where polling will take place in Puducherry.
The meeting will be chaired by Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora. Arora and top EC officials will discuss the deployment of the central forces in different districts in view of the polls.
Deputy Election Commissioner Sudeep Jain, who is in charge of West Bengal, will visit the state on Thursday to oversee the preparedness for the polls. He will hold meetings with district magistrates, police superintendents and other senior officials. He will then submit a report to the Election Commission.
According to media reports, the ECI could announce the election dates in the firt week of March. Earlier on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi while addressing a public meeting at Silapathar in Assam’s Dhemaji district, said, “Last time in 2016, the Assembly poll dates were announced on March 4. This year, it is my assumption that EC will announce the dates for Assembly Polls by March 7. It is up to them (EC) to announce the dates but till the announcement is made, I will visit Assam, West Bengal, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala as much as I can.”
Meanwhile, the Election Commission will likely hold elections in Bengal in seven-eight phases. In 2016, elections were held in six phases from April 4- May 5. The ECI data showed that about 6,400 polling booths are deemed sensitive in the state. The poll body has also increased in Bengal from 78,903 to 1,01,790. At least 125 companies of central security forces are likely to arrive in the state by the end of February.
In another related development, the ECI will follow the Bihar model, taken up last year for conducting the assembly polls amid the coronavirus pandemic, during the upcoming elections. The ECI has already started inoculation of the officials involved with the polling and the entire process would get over before the election starts.
Candidates for the election would also have to follow the protocols while officials inside polling booths will wear masks, face shields and gloves and use sanitiser on the premises.
Once inside polling stations, voters will have their body temperatures checked. The body temperature of a voter would be checked for a second time if the person is found to have a temperature beyond the permissible limit of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. If the person’s body temperature is found high for the second time too, the voter will be asked to come back to cast vote in the final hour of the day (5 pm-6 pm). Suspected Covid-19 patients will be allowed to cast their votes only after others finish exercising their franchise.
Electors would be provided with disposable gloves for one hand, which they will use for signing and to press the button of an EVM.