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Bihar, ballot, bloodshed

Salil Kumar in New Delhi | May 31, 2005 20:48 IST

The Union government's decision to dissolve the Bihar assembly has thrust another election upon the people of the state.

Deputy Election Commissioner Anand Kumar and legal adviser S K Mendiratta were in Patna on May 27 and 28 to meet district collectors and political parties and assess the state election machinery's preparedness and the ground situation.

They were to submit their report to the Election Commission on Monday.

The election schedule will depend on the assessment of preparedness for elections, weather conditions and the festival calendar.

Two elections in a year is something that a state can do without, especially one as cash-strapped as Bihar.

Though it is difficult to know how much an election costs, reports put the figure upward of Rs 250 crore -- it does not include expenses incurred by candidates and parties in campaigning.

According to T S Krishnamurthy, who was chief election commissioner when the state went to the polls in February, "Unlike other countries we have to provide for matters such as preparation of rolls in various languages, security forces, election observers and facilities for voter protection."

"The problem is more acute in states like Bihar, where communications are not easy and roads are not always accessible," he continued.

"In the last election, we had to ensure around 400 police stations had proper telephone facilities. Add to this the varied geographical terrain, dominance of violent elements in certain areas and politicians with criminal background," he said.

According to him, in February, 150 to 250 companies of paramilitary forces were deployed during each of the three phases of
voting.

"They had to be posted a week in advance so that confidence could be created among the people," he added.

Expenses can be curbed if the election is held in one phase.

"During the last election in Bihar we thought of holding the election in a single phase. But we did not get sufficient forces. It depends on the availability of paramilitary forces," Krishnamurthy said.

He said it is the state's responsibility to pay for an assembly election but agreed that Bihar is bankrupt.

Another senior official who was associated with the EC and did not want to be named, said, "It is a colossal expenditure. At the end of the day, it is the taxpayer's money that is being spent."

In Bihar, unlike in states like Maharashtra, businesses comes to a virtual halt during an election.

Curfew is imposed in many areas and shoot at sight orders are issued. People don't take out their vehicles lest they be taken away by political parties for campaigning.

There is the inevitable bloodshed. Many people, including candidates, are killed every time an election is held in Bihar.

Read all about the Bihar crisis

 


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