Political parties in Karnataka urged the Election Commission to take stringent action against those violating the model code of conduct in force for the May 12 assembly election, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Om Prakash Rawat said on Friday.
"Political leaders, including former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, have met the poll panel and expressed their issues regarding code of conduct violations and raised concerns about lack of neutrality of officials in certain places," he told reporters here after meeting representatives of parties from the state.
The EC would look into the complaints and take action after going through the facts, he said, adding officials have been asked to ensure all observe the model code in letter and spirit.
Rawat, along with Election Commissioners Ashok Lavasa and Sunil Arora, was on a three-day visit to the state from Wednesday to review the readiness of the state machinery for the smooth and peaceful conduct of the election to the 224-member assembly in a single phase.
Many parties complained to the poll panel that chairmen, presidents and advisors to various boards, corporations, commissions and departments were still utilizing public resources such as office premises, vehicles and staff, Rawat said.
"The Commission has asked the government to keep officials other than poll in-charge district-level officers away from the election machinery. The Commission will come down heavily on any violations," he said, adding the state should ensure that any "extra-constitutional" authorities are kept away from the election process.
Opposition parties have also complained about "populist and partisan" measures of the state government in releasing funds for its schemes, he said. "Parties have also asked us to curb distribution of money to bribe and induce voters to cast their ballot in favour of their candidates."
Till date, surveillance teams have seized over Rs 2.4 crore in cash, liquor valued at Rs 24 lakh, gold weighing 2.464kg, and other freebies to voters like laptops, cookers etc, valued at Rs 3.7 crore.
On complaints from the parties on missing voters' names in the electoral rolls, Rawat said a special drive will be held on April 8 across the state in order to register the voters left out.
The poll panel is also working extensively on poll awareness among the electorate by educating them about the EVMs and Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines, he added.
Asked about the discrepancy that was observed in a VVPAT machine in Raichur, Rawat admitted that perfection was "very difficult" to achieve.
"Unknowingly a VVPAT machine meant for 16 candidates was attached to an EVM with 64 candidates, due to which the mistake occurred. It cannot be expected that when such large-scale election machinery is employed, there will be no mistakes at all. Such errors will be looked into immediately."
To a question on the alleged leak of poll dates when the panel had announced the election schedule on March 27, Rawat said that the Commission will take action after going through the report.
"A period of seven days were given for submitting the report on the issue, which ended on April 4. But the panel couldn't take a look at it as we have been in Karnataka since Wednesday. The report should have been ready by and now and the Commission will take action after going through it."
The poll panel earlier interacted with Deputy Commissioners and Superintendents of Police in all the 30 districts to take stock of their preparedness, including arrangements and security measures at the 56,696 polling booths.
Almost all of the polling booths have the minimum facilities required such as ramps, drinking water, toilets, electricity and a waiting room, Rawat said, adding ORS will be kept at the polling booths, as it will be the peak of summer.
The state has 4.96 crore electors - 2.52 crore men and 2.44 crore women, while about 4,500 people who identify themselves as the "third gender".
A total of 15,42,000 youth in the 18-19 age group have enrolled to vote for the first time.
In all, 3,56,552 personnel will be deployed to conduct the polling.