BENGALURU: Karnataka is likely to set an example for other states with the unprecedented security and enforcement checks that are in place this assembly election. Strict enforcement is everywhere, with gun-wielding security personnel, including Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), maintaining round-the-clock vigil. The record number of cases registered and total seizures of `148 crores including cash, gold, silver and other material speak volumes on the strict enforcement of Model Code of Conduct (MCC) by the Election Commission of India (ECI).
When The New Indian Express sought to know how the ECI had managed to enforce measures in such a manner, Dr K G Jagadeesh, Additional Chief Electoral Officer (CEO)-1, explained: “It is for the first time that we have picked up upright IAS, IPS and IFS officers working in their respective departments in district administration, excise, police, forest departments and commercial tax in all districts a month before the calendar of events was announced. They were trained on how to check the distribution of money, liquor, drugs, material and misuse of vehicles. Then they were appointed as ‘nodal officers’, recognising their specialised areas. Similar exercise was done at taluk level, too.”
Interestingly, leaders and workers of political parties themselves have been tipping off the EC official about the distribution of money, liquor and materials by rival party members.On an average, the helpline (1950) has seen 1,000 calls a day with 30 staffers attending to them. The flying squads which are called ‘Strike Force’ act swiftly on the complaints. The static surveillance teams are also doing wonderful jobs, said Jagadeesh.
After the nodal officers were in place, 9-12 flying squads were formed in each constituency with each team to work eight-hour shift so that they maintain surveillance 24x7. Similarly, Static Surveillance Teams (check-posts) in each constituency with armed CRPF and jurisdictional police equipped with web cameras and CCTV, were put in place. They were trained extensively through video conference.
When his attention is drawn to the statistics showing the EC’s record, Jagadeesh said they are not ready to claim credit for it right now because the last three days are really testing time for their teams because there are more chances of distributing money, liquor and so on.“Therefore, during this elections, we have decided not to reduce the number of flying squads or the static surveillance teams till the elections are over. Earlier, for want of more manpower, those teams were reduced to use them for polling stations, mustering, de-mustering, and so on. This will not happen this year.
Instead, the flying squads, as well as static surveillance teams, will be made rigorously, in last three days, to check offences, inspection, checking lodges, and so on, Jagadeesh said. Dry days will be declared during the election (5 pm on May 10 to May 12 midnight and on May 15), Section 147 will be invoked to ensure law and order. Total 600 companies (each with 100 men) of CRPF provided this time, as against 532 Companies in 2013 elections.