Polling for 80 municipal boards in Assam on March 6; counting on March 9

Guwahati, Feb 9 (PTI): The Assam State Election Commission (ASEC) of Assam on Wednesday announced that polling to 80 municipal boards across the state will be held on March 6 and votes will be counted three days later.

Addressing a press conference, State Election Commissioner Alok Kumar said the polling will be conducted through electronic voting machines (EVMs) for the first time in the history of civic elections in Assam.

In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ASEC banned roadshows, rallies and processions related to campaigns till February 15 as per the guidelines of the Assam State Disaster Management Authority. Door-to-door campaigning is allowed with a maximum of 15 persons.

“The model code of conduct comes into force with the announcement of the poll date,” Kumar said.

The last date for filing nominations has been fixed on February 15 and scrutiny of applications will be done on February 17, he said.

“The polling will take place on March 6 and the counting will be held on March 9. The last date for withdrawal of candidature is February 20,” the Election Commissioner said.

He said the election to Silchar Municipal Board will not be conducted now as the matter is sub judice in the Gauhati High Court.

Kumar said the ASEC held a meeting with all political parties, and they have agreed to the use of EVMs even though these are of older make without the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system.

“We consulted the Attorney General of India to upgrade to EVMs from ballot papers and he said only a notification changing the rule will be sufficient. It has been done accordingly,” he said.

The Election Commission of India has lent 5,900 EVMs, without VVPAT, for conducting the civic elections in the state.

“Out of these, 1,600-1,700 EVMs have been kept for polls of Guwahati Municipal Corporation in future. We have already sent around 4,100 EVMs to the respective municipal boards,” Kumar said.

The voting will be conducted as per the latest photo electoral rolls published on January 1, 2022, the Election Commissioner said.

There are 977 wards or seats in the 80 municipal boards.

The total number of voters in the constituencies spread across 36 districts and sub-divisions is 16,73,899, including 8,32,348 men, 8,41,534 women and 17 third gender, he added.

“The polling will take place at 2,054 booths. We believe that 20,000-25,000 government staffers will be deployed in conducting the entire election exercise. This will be in addition to police personnel to be involved in maintaining the law and order situation during the election,” Kumar said.

Kumar also said that 33 observers have been appointed to conduct the election in a free and fair manner.

“The Commission will review the pandemic situation in the coming days and issue directions accordingly. If a candidate or political party violates any of the guidelines, no more permission shall be given. If a star campaigner breaks the COVID-19 protocols, he shall be disallowed to campaign further in that district,” he added.