Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra today asked the over 1,400 observers deployed in the upcoming assembly elections to be vigilant against any lapses in Model Code of Conduct and other guidelines of the Commission, and ensure strict enforcement of COVID-19 protocol.
The Commission had organised a briefing meeting for general, police and expenditure observers for the assembly elections in Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. 140 officials attended it physically at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi and the rest joining virtually. Officers drawn from IAS, IPS, IRS and other services across the country are deployed as observers during elections.
Addressing the observers, Chandra said they should be visible, accessible, neutral and ethical in their functioning.
Chandra said that observers are the eyes and ears of the Election Commission and should be totally in command, with eagle-eye on issues to ensure the conduct of free, fair, transparent and safe elections.
He advised the observers to be updated with all electoral processes, including postal ballot facility for absentee voters. While stressing on the Commission's zero tolerance towards abuse of money power or any kind of inducements, the CEC urged expenditure observers to sharpen their skills and be innovative in countering newer methods of inducement. He asked the observers to ensure proper publicity of the cVIGIL App to empower citizens to report cases of violation to ensure prompt action by flying squads and surveillance teams.
The CEC directed that the observers should work in coordination with enforcement agencies.
Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar highlighted that the observer system is now well established and it's an elaborate and robust interface of the Commission for guidance for field functionaries. He said observers play a cardinal role in conduct of elections and thus need to be accessible and visible to the voters, candidates and political parties to personally attend to their suggestions and grievance redressal.
He cautioned that even stray instances of human errors by polling personnel, non-compliance of COVID-19 protocols even at polling material distribution centres can create a deviant narrative and derail the smooth conduct of elections. He asked observers to be vigilant and report any critical incident immediately to the Commission.
Kumar cautioned the observers that they are always under strict and microscopic scrutiny by various stakeholders and thus should be careful and discreet about their own personal behavior and conduct during the election process.
Election Commissioner Anup Chandra Pandey while acknowledging that conducting elections amid COVID-19 is challenging, exhorted the observers to ensure that the level playing field is maintained for all political parties and candidates. He also directed to ensure that hassle-free and voter friendly measures are provided at polling stations for voters.
Pandey stressed that the observers should play a critical role in deployment of Central paramilitary forces in ensuring peaceful and intimidation-free elections.
While highlighting the enhanced role of virtual campaigning in the current times, he mentioned the need to curtail misinformation and hate campaigns on social media platforms.