Dated: 1stApril, 2021
Polling for Phase 2 Assam and West Bengal Assembly Constituencies conducted peacefully.
Elaborate arrangements made for COVID safe, intimidation free and inducement free elections
The second phase of Assam and West Bengal Assembly Elections was conducted peacefully across 21,212 Polling Stations spread over 69 Assembly Constituencies today. The Commission has laid great emphasis on ensuring transparent and vigilant mechanism for COVID safe, intimidation free and inducement free elections amidst tight security arrangements.
The second phase of elections were conducted for 39 Assembly Constituencies in Assam. More than 73 lakh electorates across 10,592 Polling Stations are registered to exercise their franchise in this phase. Voting was held in 30 Assembly Constituencies of West Bengal with nearly 76 lakh electorates registered across 10,620 Polling Stations in Phase II. The number of Polling Stations has increased in view of the fact that the number of voters per polling station has been reduced from 1500 to 1000 keeping social distancing norms in view.
Polling across ACs was conducted under strict security arrangements. Election Commission has laid out an elaborate security plan to ensure smooth and safe conduct of elections. Eighteen Police Observers have been deployed by ECI to ensure safe environment during the elections. Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) along with the local police force have been deployed to ensure peaceful, intimidation free and conducive atmosphere for the smooth conduct of elections in a free, fair, inclusive and accessible manner. Route marches in vulnerable pockets, regular point patrolling and other Confidence Building Measures were carried out to reassure voters, especially those belonging to the weaker sections of society. Force deployment in the Assembly segments has been done under the supervision of the Central Observers deputed by the Commission.
It is the standing instruction of the Commission that outsiders will not be allowed in the areas of poll going assembly constituencies during the silence period i.e. 48 hours before the end of polling hours. DEOs and SPs were given instructions during briefings that this instruction should be strictly adhered to. The Commission has also issued instruction that police officials including CAPF personnel will not go inside the polling booth unless required by Presiding Officer due to law and order problem. The Commission had reiterated this instruction in briefing of DEOs and police officials. These guidelines were strictly and rigorously followed. In any case anecdote reportage of any kind is not a substitute for hard empirical evidence. ECI is always committed to enquire into specific instances and taking swift action.
As a major push for conducting free and fair elections, live monitoring and webcasting of more than 50% of Polling Stations including critical and vulnerable polling booths has been put in place as per ECI norms, to ensure safe and secure atmosphere in polling areas. Commission, CEOs, DEOs, Observers could watch live streaming and keep a close watch on these polling booths in Assam and West Bengal. Webcasting arrangements were put in place for 5535 Polling Stations in West Bengal and 5193 Polling Stations in Assam.
To ensure inclusive and accessible elections, ECI has extended the option of postal ballot facility to PwDs, Senior Citizens above the age of 80 years, COVID-19 suspect or affected persons and persons employed in essential services. The Observers at the ground level oversaw that proper arrangements for facilitation were made available for these voters.
Keeping pandemic concerns in view, all the Polling Stations followed COVID-19 Safety protocols. For the safety of the voters and the election officials it was ensured that the Polling Stations were sanitized one day prior to poll and facility of thermal scanning, hand sanitisers, face masks were also made available at the Polling Stations. Proper arrangements for social distancing were put in place. BLOs and volunteers monitored and regulated strict compliance of social distancing norms at the Polling Stations. At the last hour of poll, polling was conducted in full COVID-19 protective gear, with proper COVID-19 protocols and supervision of health authorities.
Assured Minimum Facilities (AMF) like drinking water, waiting shed, toilet with water facility, adequate arrangements for lighting, ramp of appropriate gradient for wheelchair for PwD electors and a standard voting compartment etc were made available at all the Polling Stations. Arrangements like transport facility, volunteers assisting Persons with Disability and senior citizens were present at the Polling Stations.
During this phase, a total of 10620 Ballot Units (BUs), 10620 Control Units(CUs) and 10620 VVPATs were used in West Bengal and 10819 Ballot Units (BUs), 10592 Control Units (CUs) and 10592 VVPATs were used in Assam. As per standard procedure all these EVMs and VVPATs had already undergone First Level Checking, Randomisation, and Commissioning in the presence of Political Parties/Candidates agents. During FLC and during commissioning each of these EVMs and VVPATs had undergone mock polls. Today before the start of the poll each of the EVMs and VVPATs again underwent a mock poll in the presence of polling agents of the candidates with minimum 50 votes cast on each, as per standard procedure. At the end of the mock poll the result of EVM were matched with the result of VVPAT slips and shown to the polling agents. Nonfunctioning rate during the poll is lesser than experienced in last few polls.
During the ongoing elections till second phase, a record seizure of Rs. 366.09 Crore has already been achieved for both the states. The seizure figure, which includes seizure of cash, liquor, narcotics, freebies etc, is more than six times higher than the total combined seizure of Rs. 60.91 Crore in GE LA 2016. The Commission has been laying specific emphasis on inducement free elections and curbing the malaise of undue money power, liquor, freebies. Till date Rs. 112.54 crore has been seized in Assam (as against a total seizure of Rs. 16.58 crore in LA 2016) and a total of 253.55 crores for West Bengal (as against a total seizure of Rs 44.33 crore in LA 2016). For effective monitoring and hand holding a total of 53 & 85 Expenditure Observers have been deployed in Assam & West Bengal Assembly Elections, 2021 respectively. In Assam, 603 Flying Squads (FS) and 762 Static Surveillance Teams (SST) were operationalised to check movement of cash, liquor, drugs & freebies. The figures of FS & SST deployed in West Bengal are 1137 & 1012 respectively. In Assam, 06 Air Intelligence Units (AIU) of IT Department are set up at Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Silchar, Tezpur & Lakhimpur. In West Bengal, 03 Air Intelligence Units (AIU) of IT Department are set up at Kolkata, Andal in Durgapur & Bagdogra.
Election Commission of India’s cVIGIL App is a citizen centric mobile application which empowers people to report cases of MCC violations in real time basis, with auto populated details of location etc and responded within 100 minutes after verification at field level. A total number of 1306 cases of Model Code of Conduct violations were reported through the cVIGIL app from Assam out of which 927 were disposed as of 4.30 pm. Similarly 14499 cases were reported from West Bengal with 11630 disposed till 4.30 pm.
Election Commission of India expresses gratitude to all stakeholders specially the voters for their enthusiastic and fearless participation in the election process today. Commission particularly thanks PwD electors, senior citizens, service voters for taking part in elections honoring COVID protocol norms. The voter turnout reported by 5pm from the 39 ACs of phase 2 in Assam is 73.03 %. The poll Percentage reported from the 30 ACs of phase 2 in West Bengal is 80.43 % as of 5pm.
ECI also recognizes the services of the entire electoral machinery including polling staff on duty, security personnel, supervisory staff, Observers, Special Observers railway authorities, enforcement agencies as also the Health authorities for making comprehensive arrangements and dedicatedly working towards successful conduct of free, fair, transparent and safe elections despite pandemic. The Commission solicits active cooperation, close collaboration and constructive partnership from all stakeholders including media for delivering smooth and peaceful elections.