Elections Without Fear or Favor
The peaceful elections in Bihar and the smooth transition of power wins the Election Commission all round praise .The scientific riggers in Wets Bengal where polls are due next year are already jittery. Bihar witnessed for the first time in living memory an election devoid of the usual Bihar flavor –violence, death, kidnapping, rigging and armed men capturing booths. These used to be the normal images of democracy at work in the state. These were replaced by images of Mohammed Shahabuddin, the don turned RJD MP on the run; the resignation of Union minister Jaipraksh Yadav who was forced out of office for intimidating policemen, orderly queues at polling stations and an environment of security.This is not exactly good news for self-styled champions of democracy who slaughter all democratic cannons to perpetuate their hold on power. The Election Commission has already initiated the process of electoral rolls revision in West Bengal, which is due for assembly polls early next year.
The technical expertise and experience of cleansing the system in Bihar will surely come in handy in the Left state. For nearly three decades, using a combination of a committed babudom ad a heavily unionised police force, the Left has zealously guarded its fort. These tactics will be tested as the commission delves deep into its Bihar experience.
E-2205 in Bihar would not have been possible without meticulous planning that helped avoid the pitfalls of the past. To install sense of security among voters security forces were stationed 1 month in advance.More than 1.5 lakhs non-bailable warrants were executed within a span of one moth and this brought the number of active hooligans in electoral process substantially down. To instill full confidence in the district administration, the commission paid at four visits to the state with CEC Tandon himself making unprecedented 8 extensive tours of Bihar to counter check the electoral plans, even changing police station level officers wherever it received complaints. The commission also invested heavily into technology .All polling stations were linked with police stations, sector magistrates and control rooms via IT.
For first time 4,000 digital cameras were used to record and monitor polling. A special spy software –Sadgem Face Recognition System –was used to digitally match faces of voters and detect duplication of votes and bogus voters.The Bihar Chief Electoral Officer N.K. Sinha deputed ‘agents' to find current status during polling. These agents were local shopkeepers with personal phones living near polling booths. This helped in counter checking all complaints of booth capturing.
The Special Observer of Commission K.J. Rao, who has experience of holding elections in J&K and Afghanistan, became the torchbearer for fair elections and evoked praise from all quarters expect election riggers.Everyone wants roads, power and industries. Only free and fair elections in a secure environment can ensure that base considerations like caste groups are kept out.