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LS polls shouldn't stretch too much, say political parties

February 03, 2009 15:26 IST

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Major political parties on Tuesday opposed the holding of Lok Sabha polls in too many phases, saying it would not provide a level playing field to smaller parties and demanded an effective mechanism to curb surrogate advertisements.

At a meeting of national and state political parties convened by the Election Commission in the run-up to the general elections likely in April-May, they felt that use of money and muscle power should be checked effectively to ensure free and fair polls.

Communist Party of India - Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury [Images] said that the Lok Sabha elections should not be stretched too much and not exceed 'at the most three weeks'.

Yechury, as also D Raja of Communist Party of India, said that states like Tamil Nadu and Kerala [Images] should have single-phase polling.

Though not on the agenda, several parties raised the stand-off between Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami [Images] and Election Commissioner Navin Chawla [Images] and said the 'neutrality, integrity and objectivity' of the constitutional body should be maintained.

In all, 32 political parties including seven national parties participated in the meeting, where all the three election commissioners were present, to elicit the views of political parties on the conduct of the general elections.

Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, who represented the party, said that while deciding the poll schedule, the EC should keep in mind the board examinations in March, a suggestion which was also made by Rashtriya Janata Dal leader and Union Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh.

Several parties also expressed concern over surrogate advertisements and misuse of the media for campaigns.

Naqvi also demanded strong measures to ensure that the poll atmosphere was not vitiated by the use of money and muscle power and suggested special steps for the Naxal-hit states.

Singh said even if a voter did not have a photo identity card, he or she should not be barred from casting ballots. He said para-military forces should be deployed at all booths and efforts should be made to see that the Electronic Voting Machines were not tampered with.

Another Union Minister and senior Congress Minister Kapil Sibal expressed concern over surrogate advertisements and pointed out that advertisements often appeared in the form of news involving a lot of expenditure.

There should be self-regulation to control it, he said, a view shared by Yechury who suggested a model code of conduct for the media. The CPI-M leader said the practise of stopping developmental work for the whole period of general elections should be reconsidered and ongoing developmental works like NREGA should not be disrupted.

Both Communist Party of India - Marxist and CPI demanded proportional representation and state funding of elections. D Raja suggested vulnerability mapping to ensure protection to weaker sections so that they can exercise their franchise without any fear. He also said deployment of paramilitary forces should be done after assessment of a particular situation and not on pre-determined assumptions.

Biren Baishya (Assam Gana Parishad) opposed the use of EVMs, alleging that they were tampered at many places. He also opposed the use of helicopters and planes by major political parties to the disadvantage of smaller parties. Asked about Bangladeshi infiltrators possessing electoral identity cards in Assam, he said they should not be allowed to vote.

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