State on EC's radar, team arriving tomorrow
Source: The Sangai Express

New Delhi, December 31: With polls in Punjab and Uttaranchal expected to be hassle-free affairs, insurgency-hit Manipur is on the radar of the Election Commission to ensure a peaceful poll in the North Eastern State.

Concerned over the security aspect in Manipur, a 3-phased poll has been fixed and the entire Commission is visiting the State on January 2.Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswamy and other Election Commissioners Navin Chawla and SY Quraishi will visit Manipur for two days from Tuesday to review the poll preparedness in the State.

During their stay, the ECs would hold discussions with senior civil and police officers and representatives of political parties to discuss the poll arrangements in the State, EC sources said today.

Apart from assessing the preparations taken up for the election, the ECI team will also address the media before returning to Delhi.

The 60-member Manipur Assembly will witness a staggered polling on February 8, 15 and 23. The Commission had discussed the availability of Central security forces in these poll-bound States with Union Home Secretary V K Duggal on Friday.

During the visit to the State the CEC is likely to announce the strength of the security personnel to be deployed for election duty.

At the moment there are 66 companies of security force stationed at Manipur.

This include the BSF, CRPF and Manipur Rifles.

The Centre has agreed to deploy 157 companies of security personnel.

To ensure that the NSCN (IM) does not interfere in the election process, the State Government has urged the Centre to confine the cadres of the outfit to their designated camps 15 days before the election gets underway.

A team of officers from New Delhi including the Home Secretary VK Duggal, Additional DG of the CRPF, Additional DG of the Assam Rifles, Director of Intelligence Bureau, Joint Secretary (NE) and Director of Military Operations are scheduled to visit Manipur on January 3 to review the law and order situation ahead of the election.

�Peaceful conduct of polling in Manipur is a major concern to the Commission,� the sources said.

While the focus in Manipur is expected to be more on security aspects, in the politically-charged Punjab, the emphasis may be on ensuring free and fair polls.

Assembly polls in Uttaranchal are not likely to pose any hitches to the Commission, they said.

Pointing out that the polling in the three States would be completed in a packed programme spanning over 16 days from February eight to 23, the sources said this time there would not be any shifting of security forces from one State to another.

�It will be a stand alone mode as each election is not connected with another as far as security aspect is concerned,� they said.

The full Commission is also expected to visit Punjab next week where a keen contest is on the cards between the ruling Congress and the Akali Dal-BJP combine for the 117-member House on February 13. Incidentally even in 2002, Punjab had gone to polls on February 13. Refusing to divulge details about the number of security personnel to be deployed, the sources said adequate number of Central Para Military Forces (CPMFs) and State Armed Police (SAPs) drawn from other States would be deployed during the polls.

Observing that the EC would monitor the ground situation Observing that the EC would monitor the ground situation closely and would take appropriate measures to ensure peaceful, free and fair polls, the sources indicated that it would depute one observer for each assembly constituency.