The intermittent rainfall and lightning the state witnessed in the past few days are a cause for concern as the VVPAT machines are a bit sensitive to humidity and lightning, says Teeka Ram Meena, Kerala’s Chief Electoral Officer. In an interview with Express Senior Reporter Dileep V Kumar, Meena shares that he may miss voting this year, as he might be busy with his work in Kerala while polling is held in his native state Rajasthan in two phases on April 29 and May 6.
Q: The state’s election preparedness and campaigning stretched for more than a month. As CEO, how satisfied are you?
A: It was a tough and massive exercise. First, we had to prepare polling officers in the use of electronic voting machines, VVPAT machines and control units. I can only call it successful if we have a smooth polling day on Tuesday. As for campaigning, it was more or less normal in Kerala than other states. Though there were some incidents, including irresponsible statements made by political leaders, I believe the implementation of the model code of conduct in letter and spirit ensured a level playing field for all political parties.
Q: The state is ready to set an example before the nation through the conduct of ‘green election’. Were political parties helpful?
A: We have been successful in implementing a green election. I appreciate the political parties who supported us. The High Court judgment also helped. In the past one month, we seized or removed around 15 lakh hoardings, banners and posters that were either non-biodegradable or were put up illegally. We will ensure green elections till the counting of votes.
Q: Did the cVIGIL app aid the Election Commission in ensuring adherence to the model code of conduct?
A: The app was immensely helpful. So far, we received 52,000 complaints through the app. Most complaints were regarding illegal hoardings/banners/flex boards/posters. There were some complaints related to liquor distribution and hate speech.
Q: How many instances of hate speech came to your notice during the campaigning?
A: There were one or two cases. We reported a case from Attingal, where the remark by a political leader was in bad taste, to the Election Commission of India. Since the case is before the court, ECI has filed its response there. If more action is needed, ECI will consider it.
Q: How many incidents of violence were reported during ‘kottikalasam’?
A: Though there were three to four incidents, it was nothing major. While I will say the incidents were unfortunate, it may have happened in the heat of the moment. In the incident in which some leaders were allegedly manhandled by rival groups, we directed the authorities concerned to conduct an inquiry. Future course of action will be decided after the probe.
Teeka Ram Meena
Chief Electoral Officer, Kerala