The Election Commission is in the final stages of locking up the country's massive polling framework to keep it sanitised and ready for voters for the Lok Sabha elections. In a letter to all the chief secretaries and police heads of the states, the EC said officers directly related with conducting the elections cannot be posted in their home districts, and set February 28 as the deadline for rearranging their duties and new posting destinations, if necessary.
Any officer who has completed three years in the same place cannot continue there if the person has to be tasked with election duties, the EC said. All officers on poll duties will have to give an undertaking to the district election officers that he or she is not related to any candidate and there is no criminal case against them.
The model code of conduct will kick in after the February 28 deadline. This means the state governments and their administrative arms have only one month to tidy up for free and fair elections. The Election Commission is likely to announce the poll schedule in the first week of March.
The EC has asked the Home Ministry, which controls all Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs), the number of personnel it can give to conduct the Lok Sabha elections, people familiar with the matter said.
They said some 1.25 lakh may be available for election duties, and using this information the EC will decide how many phases it would need to conduct the national elections.
With the term of the Sikkim assembly ending on May 27, and that of Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and Odisha ending in June, the EC will have its hands full as it is also putting together a team to visit Jammu and Kashmir - currently under the President's Rule after the BJP's pull-out from an alliance with Mehbooba Mufti's PDP fell the state government - to see whether the state elections can be held simultaneously with the national elections, sources said.
There is intense scrutiny of the election process this year with several opposition party leaders openly sharing their reservations against using electronic voting machines (EVMs). The EC has said allegations of fallible EVMs are false and malicious attempts to cast doubt on the robust, foolproof system will be dealt with strictly.