With the announcement of election dates in Meghalaya, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has issued strict guidelines to all political parties of the State to refrain from using unfair means like leveraging on religion, caste, race and the likes while campaigning for the upcoming polls which will be held on February 27 next.
The state’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), F R Kharkongor, apprised the media during a briefing on Thursday, immediately after announcement of election schedule, that the ECI directions in the case of seeking votes in the name of religion, caste or similar such categories has been forwarded to all political parties and brought to the notice of all district election officers and returning officers to alert political parties on the issue.
“Political parties during poll campaign should abstain from making appeals to vote for any candidate on grounds of religion, caste, race, community or language of the candidate. Any such appeal would amount to corrupt practise,” he said.
All political parties at the national level have been briefed by ECI not to solicit votes in the name of religion, caste, creed or linguistic identity.
The CEO further said, all such activity by any political party or candidate would now amount to violation of provisions of sub paras 3 and 4 of part 1 of Model Code of Conduct which has come into immediate effect from Thursday.
The date of issue of the gazette notification is on January 31, last date of nomination is on February 7, date for scrutiny of nominations is on February 8, and last date for withdrawal of candidatures is on February 12.
“The date of polling is on February 27 and the date of counting has been fixed on March 3 while the date before which the entire election process shall be completed is on March 5,” Kharkongor further said.
Kharkongor also said the Model Code of Conduct will be applicable for all contesting candidates, political parties, State Government and also Union Government in so far as announcement of policy decision is concerned.
He also informed that the government of the poll-bound state has been directed to ensure there is no misuse of official machinery or position during the model code of conduct period.
The CEO further informed that of the 3082 polling stations in the State, 2025 are categorized as normal polling stations, 536 as vulnerable, 454 as critical and 67 are both vulnerable as well as critical.
“However, this is a dynamic process because the scenario changes on daily basis as there could be certain areas which were normal but turn sensitive. We will be reviewing this aspect very closely,” he added.
Kharkongor said police are working on revisiting some of the polling stations so that their status of vulnerable or critical can be further refined by the time of polling.
With regards to use of social media for election campaign, Kharkongor said that the model code of conduct will also be applicable to all social media.
“The deputy commissioners have been asked to actively monitor and the police through their cyber security cell,” he said.