‘It’s been a long, testing time of 45 days’
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How has the wait since polling been?
It has been a long, testing time of 45 days. The safety of the EVMs was a big challenge. We kept them under a double-lock system in strong-rooms, and monitored them with CCTV cameras and 24×7 two-layer security manned by 13 paramilitary companies and state armed police. Some leaders expressed fears about the safety of the EVMs initially but these were unfounded...
Because of the long gap between polling and counting, some candidates started contacting service voters, who number 43,511, while there also are 74,000 army and para-military personnel. Candidate Rajeev Bindal (BJP) approached the CEO's office asking for more postal ballots. The EC asked for a report as a postal ballot can't be issue after the polls. Since the model code was still in force, chasing voters who were yet to send postal ballots could have attracted penalties. We issued him a warning.
How did you thwart the usual challenge from the weather?
The weather was taken into account while deciding the dates. The EC collected data on the past 10 years' snowfall and on the previous three polls, and decided to hold polls in one phase, before snowfall in the tribal belt.
The EC has been tough on paid news. How has it been in Himachal?
Paid news has become a threat to the fairness of elections. We received 111 complaints, which are under scrutiny, and appropriate action will follow. We also issued notices to two political parties for surrogate advertisements published in some local-language newspapers. I have sought the Election Commission's advice before filing FIRs in some cases.
How far has new technology helped?
There is a new software, GENESYS, for giving results on a real-time basis. The EC has held a video-conference to guide returning officers how the software works. It's going to be an exciting experience... In fact, a lot of new things have happened, starting from preparation of photo-electoral rolls and photo identity cards to campaigning for maximum participation of voters. The issuance of voters' slips at houses and at booths was a major innovation and ensured record polling. For the first time, we achieved 100 percent registration of eligible voters. There was real-time monitoring of polling at all 7,253 booths using GPS and a web-enabled facility through Google.
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