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செவ்வாய், ஏப்ரல் 26, 2011

Armed guards keep vigil over postal ballot boxes in Cuddalore district



PUT ON ALERT: Ballot boxes meant for casting postal ballots in Cuddalore are well guarded. 
 
CUDDALORE: 

        Armed personnel have been keeping round-the-clock vigil on the ballot boxes kept in the offices of the Returning Officers. For every Assembly constituency, one ballot box has been kept to receive the postal votes to be cast by the officials and police personnel engaged in poll duty on April 13.

           They are given time till 8 a.m. on May 13, counting day, to submit their ballots, either by post or in person. However, the month-long gap between the actual polling and counting has given rise to certain unpleasant happenings such as politicians either influencing or intimidating the voters.

         In a closely contested election as of now, the postal ballots assume great significance as it might decide the winning margin. For instance, in the 2006 Assembly elections Pattali Makkal Katchi MLA T.Velmurugan won the elections with a wafer thin margin of 148 votes, all said to be postal ballots. In the previous elections, the counting was done within a span of a maximum of seven days after polling, thereby leaving little room for anybody exerting undue pressure on the officials enjoying the postal vote facility.

           There are reports that candidates in the fray have put their agents on the task of tracking those who have postal votes. Even some of the agents are hanging around the places where the ballot boxes are kept. For them every single vote counts, and on an average they could be 900 to 1,200 postal votes in any given Assembly segment. For instance, in Villupuram district, the number of postal votes is closer to 7,500 and in Cuddalore district it is around 6,050.
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         n fact, they constitute about 60 to 85 per cent of the officials who minded the poll duty, and the remaining have not qualified to vote for the reasons such as non submission of the prescribed forms or non inclusion of their names in the electoral rolls. It is said that a section of the officials are buying time to cast the postal votes, for reasons best known to them. The poll observers feel that the Election Commission that has tightened its hold on the usual polling does not seem to have taken into reckoning the unusual spacing of the counting day. It has come in handy for the politicians to exploit the situation to their advantage.

           State president of the Tamil Nadu Government Employees' Union K.Balasubramanian told TheHindu that it was for the first time in the history of Tamil Nadu that counting day had been so spaced out. He opined that had the Election Commission given only a brief time for the officials to cast their postal ballots, it would have prevented the politicians from chasing them either to offer enticements or to threaten them. Cuddalore District Electoral Officer P.Seetharaman said that foolproof measures had been made for casting of postal votes. However, he warned that canvassing or influencing the voters in any form would be treated as violation of the election rules.

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