With just three days to go before Tamil Nadu casts its vote in the Lok Sabha polls and 18 assembly bye-polls, the Chief Electoral Officer of the state has issued a slew of instructions to political leaders as well as the general public. The Election Commission has warned against the transporting of voters to and from polling booths by leaders or their agents. The instructions will come into effect from 6 pm on April 16, commonly known as the silent period. The EC prohibits election campaigns and public political gatherings during this period, which is 48 hours prior to polling.
The statement from Tamil Nadu’s CEO Satyabrata Sahoo also reminded that while polling will take place on April 18 between 7 am and 6 pm across the rest of Tamil Nadu, in Madurai parliamentary constituency, the hours of polling will be from 7 am to 8 pm. This is on account of the annual Chithirai festival which takes place between April 7 and 19. The decision by the EC was announced after residents from the district and politicians complained of the date clash.
Keeping with the Representation of the People Act, 1951, the EC has also said that no one shall convene, hold or attend any public meeting or procession in connection with an election during this period. “No one shall display to the public any election matter by means of cinematograph, television or other similar apparatus, like, FM Radios, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, etc. This includes all electronic form of communication, including SMS and internet.” read the statement.
The poll body has also warned against the propagation of 'election matter to the public by holding or by arranging the holding of, any musical concert or any theatrical performance or any other entertainment or amusement with a view to attracting the member of the public thereto.' The violation of these aforementioned provisions is an offence punishable by law and could lead to imprisonment of two years or fine or both, reminded the EC.
In an important instruction to party workers, the CEC directed, "All political functionaries, party workers, etc. who have been brought from outside the constituency and who are not voters of the Constituency should leave the constituency immediately after 6.00 P.M. on 16.04.2019" Checks would be carried out at wedding halls, community halls, lodges, and guest houses to find out whether the outsiders have been accommodated in these premises, said the EC.
For star campaigners and candidates in the polls, vehicle permits would cease to be valid from 6 pm on April 16. On April 18 ie the date of poll, each candidate is entitled to get a separate permit from the Returning Officer for one vehicle for the candidate's use, one for the use of their poll agent and another for their party workers for each assembly constituency.
“No candidate shall be allowed to hire or procure or use vehicle by candidate or his agent for transporting the voters, to and fro from the polling station which is a corrupt practice punishable under Section 133 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.” said the EC.
Moreover, the temporary campaign offices of candidates and political parties can be set up only 200 metres outside the polling station. Only two persons are allowed to man the office and they should not allow unnecessary crowd, as per the EC.
The EC also reiterated that exit polls have been banned from 7 am on April 11 to 6: 30 pm on May 19.