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EC gets into poll mode, requisitions 'outstanding' officer

Last updated on: July 24, 2013 20:20 IST

As various parties go into poll mode, the Election Commission too, has requisitioned the services of its former deputy election commissioner, known for his excellent management skills, says Anita Katyal

To begin with, it has requisitioned the services of its former deputy election commissioner and 'super outstanding' officer R Balakrishnan to help plan, manage and execute the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Balakrishnan, had acquired fame as a manager par excellence during his stint in the Election Commission from 2005-2010. Currently on study leave, he is being pulled out midway for the conduct of the next election.

Chief Election Commissioner  V S Sampath had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the last week of May requesting the appointment  of the 1984 Odisha cadre Indian Administrative Services officer to the commission for the conduct the year-end assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Delhi and Mizoram and the 2014 Lok Sabha election.

Government sources told that the Cabinet committee on appointments has given its green signal and Balakrishnan will be joining the commission as deputy election commissioner shortly.

During his earlier stint in the EC, Balakrishnan had introduced the concept of deploying booth level officers and mapping of vulnerable booths in various assembly elections.

Today, it is a key element of election management. He had also started the use of the geographic information systems which helps in the effective deployment of manpower resources.

Known in the Election Commission as an excellent manager and team leader, government sources said it was in recognition of these skills that the CEC had put in a special request for his appointment.

It is stated that when former CEC Navin Chawla was asked to write Balakrishnan’s annual confidential report, he had made a special mention that a special category of 'super outstanding' ought to be created for such officers.

Work on the forthcoming elections will begin in real earnest once Balakrishnan takes charge. The commission has started work on preparing the electoral lists considered the foundation of conducting a fair poll. The current focus is obviously on the five assembly elections.

The commission will soon initiate the process of acquiring three lakh more electronic voting machines for which the Cabinet had recently sanctioned Rs 300 crore.

The EC will also be calling an all-party meeting after the monsoon session of Parliament which closes on August 30 to discuss guidelines for election manifestos.

This follows a recent Supreme Court direction asking the commission to confer with political parties regarding the regulation of the promises made by them in their election manifestos.

"Freebies promised by political parties in their election manifestos shake the roots of free and fair polls," the Supreme Court had observed, adding that this vitiates the election process and disturbs the level playing field among political parties.

These freebies range from colour televisions to laptop computers. A recent statement put out by the Election Commission had said that a meeting of all political parties will be held for consultations on the “implementation of the Supreme Court judgment" and that copies of the judgment had been sent to them.

The EC is currently preparing a background paper on this issue.

Anita Katyal in New Dehi