Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar on Tuesday said some "self-appointed astrologers" have declared dates of elections before his visit to Gujarat, an apparent swipe at state BJP chief C R Paatil who had said the Assembly polls may conclude by November-end.
"We take a decision on when to hold elections after taking into consideration all factors. Whenever the time comes, we inform the media and nobody else (about the poll schedule). It is a different thing that some self-appointed astrologers have announced the dates of elections before our visit here," Mr Kumar told reporters.
He was apparently referring to Mr Paatil's statement on Monday that the upcoming Assembly elections in Gujarat are likely to get over by November-end, unlike the last two polls that went on till mid-December.
The CEC and a team of senior officials of the Election Commission of India (ECI) are in Gujarat to review the poll preparedness.
Mr Kumar said the poll body considers many factors before finalising the poll schedule and the media is the first to know when the dates are announced.
"It is a different thing that there are some self-appointed astrologers who have announced the dates of elections before my visit here. I wish the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) was in force. If the MCC were in force, we would have reacted immediately," Mr Kumar said.
Talking about poll preparedness in Gujarat, the CEC said the ECI is working to connect more people through technology.
The poll body has launched CVIGIL and KYC apps as well as Suvidha portal for candidates.
"We are trying to connect more and more people through technology. Not only technological changes, but we are also trying to provide the best of services and comfort and ease to voters," he said.
The CEC said efforts are undertaken to encourage senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs) to exercise their franchise.
Out of the total 4.83 crore electors in Gujarat, 10.36 lakh voters are above the age of 80 while 11,842 are centenarians, he said, adding that the number of PWDs in the state is 4.13 lakh. "We have ordered collectors to send someone to the houses of centenarians to express gratitude and offer them respect," he added.
The CEC said the last electoral rolls in Gujarat (before polls) will be published on October 10.
To ensure transparency and fairness, the ECI will make provision for webcasting from over 50 per cent, 78 polling booths in the state during the upcoming elections, he said.
"We are taking very strong action in ensuring transparency in booths. These polling stations are identified as sensitive and critical booths," Mr Kumar said.
He said the poll body will send booth-level officers (BLOs) to the residences of senior citizen voters who opt to vote from home. The process will be video-graphed. A similar facility will also be made for PWDs with over 40 per cent disability.
The CEC said he has received some constructive suggestions from political parties, several of which such as web-casting of polling booths, not allowing candidates and party workers to ferry voters, and SOPs for poll code to ensure common citizens are not harassed will be implemented.
He said the information regarding the movement and storage of EVMs will also be shared with political parties.
Regarding donations to political parties, the CEC said such donations should be disclosed, "because knowing what is coming is a matter of priority.
"We have sent to the government for an amendment to align with the digital age. There is no stoppage in taking donations. There are only two requirements: whatever is being taken should be disclosed, because knowing what's coming is a matter of priority," Mr Kumar said.
Candidates and political parties will be required to publish information regarding criminal antecedents in newspapers, he said.
"Discussions were also held with various enforcement agencies to ensure that polls are free of inducements. Efforts will also be made to increase voting percentage in urban areas with the below-average voting," the top poll official added.