Praveen Kumar, special observer to oversee polling in the high-profile constituency of Varanasi, tells Vicky Nanjappa/Rediff.com that he will ensure that all goes off smoothly without complaints on Monday
Faced with election commissioner HS Brahma's public criticism of the handling of the Varanasi stand-off on Friday, the Election Commission appointed Praveen Kumar as a special observer to oversee polling in the high-profile constituency of Varanasi.
“It has been hectic and I am not here to speak about who is winning or losing. I need to ensure that the elections go off smoothly,” Kumar told Rediff.com.
“Just a day after landing in Varanasi, I have held a series of meetings with both political parties and officials. It was decided that a video facility will be made available at polling booths, since many parties were apprehensive about some incidents that could derail the process,” said Kumar.
“It is no doubt a big election and a massive turnout is expected. I want to ensure that all get a chance to vote and there is no confusion. We will ensure that all the voters can cast their vote smoothly. It is not an easy election. It is a highly populated area and managing it makes our job even tougher,” he added.
The special observer has been holding a series of review meetings since Saturday. He has told all political parties to make sure that their supporters from other places are not present in the constituency.
On Sunday evening, Kumar will once again meet with the Varanasi district administration. He will inspect polling booths and also ensure that the control rooms are fully functional.
All political parties are aware of Kumar's reputation and the manner in which he has conducted elections in Tamil Nadu where he held the post of Chief Electoral Officer. Not only has he been credited with increasing the awareness among the voters but also introduced several measures that curbed the illegal money flow during the elections.
In Varanasi, where the stakes are high, there is a lurking suspicion of money being moved at the last minute. The Election Commission has its flying squads to check the flow of illegal money but for Kumar the job will be really tough since party workers are known to do everything to hoodwink the agencies.
Kumar’s real test will be on Monday. The entire nation is watching this constituency.
“We are constantly coordinating with the security agencies and the district administration. We will ensure that all goes off smoothly with no complaints,” Kumar said.
Image: Praveen Kumar, special observer to oversee polling in Varanasi.