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kashmir: Election Commission has taken steps for safety of all candidates: J&K EC KK Sharma

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J&K Election Commissioner
KK Sharma has been in the hot seat since the DDC elections began on November 28. In an interview with Prerna Katiyar, he says that the poll panel is treating all candidates fairly and equally and the criticisms in this regard are baseless. Edited excerpts:

The first three phases of the DDC polls saw a good turnout. How were the constituencies assigned to the phases and what are the lessons from the first phase?

We had kept the difficulty of terrain, sensitivity of the area and weather conditions in mind to decide on phase-wise distribution of constituencies. For example, snow-covered areas and places considered sensitive were kept in phases I and II. These included Pulwama, Kupwara, Doda and Kishtwar. Barring one incident of stone-pelting in Kulgam, polling has been peaceful. We expect the turnout to be better in the remaining phases.

What special measures were taken to ensure safe and fair conduct of polls?
Adequate security personnel have been deployed at all polling stations to maintain law and order and safety of candidates. Helicopters have been deployed for use in snowcapped areas. We are giving security cover to candidates keeping in mind the importance of these polls. Apart from observers, micro-observers have also been assigned to all polling stations.

But opposition leaders are alleging misuse of security personnel — that PAGD candidates are being taken to secluded locations and not allowed to canvass and that they are being put in cluster accommodation?

Candidates have been put in cluster accommodation for their own security. It doesn’t mean they are being prevented from holding election campaigning. On the contrary, security forces are helping these candidates with security and other things to facilitate their campaigning.

We have a record of all the security arrangements made for all party candidates. I can say this with certainty that we have ensured comfortable campaigning for all candidates. The state election commission believes in providing equal opportunities to every contesting candidate and will not bar any candidate from going anywhere to campaign.

What was the rationale behind changing the locations of poll stations at the last minute?

We do not usually change polling stations at the last moment but sometimes, it is done at the request of the district election officers due to weather conditions such as snowfall. Sometimes, we receive some sensitive inform a t i o n a n d based on that, the stations have to be changed.

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