Time to have a rethink on multi-phase polls, says ex-CEC T S Krishnamurthy

File photo of polling officials carrying EVMs and other materials to a polling centre. Photo: PTI

Former Chief Election Commissioner T S Krishnamurthy has pitched for single-phase elections and substantially curtailing public campaigning time in future polls.

He said public and road rallies during elections cannot be banned but the Election Commission of India (ECI) can seriously consider substantially curtailing the time and the number of days for holding such meetings as there are now alternative methods of campaigning such as digital and social media.

According to him, holding of multi-phase elections had been justified on the ground that there would be less violence and it's easy to control law and order situation.

"(But) the (West) Bengal experience -- the ongoing Assembly elections in the State are spread over eight phases -- has taught us that even multi-phase elections do not prevent violence, hatred and personal attacks" Krishnamurthy told PTI on Tuesday.

"We have been talking about (debate) simultaneous elections (in the country", he said.

"I would rather prefer simultaneous elections on one day in each State".

But Krishnamurthy also said single-phase elections may not be possible in some places but at least they have to be brought down to 2-3 phases.

He recalled that the 2004 General elections were conducted -- when he was the CEC -- within four phases, except in Jammu and Kashmir, where it was five-phased one.

But, time has now come to seriously examine if multi- phase elections served their purpose.

"It (multi-phase elections) does not produce results in a country of so much diversity and so much of conflicts in social conditions", Krishnamurthy felt.

"We must think of some method of reducing the number of phases -- preferably single phase of elections.

But, it would require extraordinary deployment of paramilitary forces and so on. If necessary, we have to send them in", he said.

Asked to comment on EC drawing flak in some quarters over political parties failing to ensure COVID-19 protocol during Assembly election campaign in some States, he said its role is limited to conduct of polls.

Krishnamurthy said if there is any action to be taken, it's the state government which has to file an FIR against those who did not wear masks and those who did not observe social distancing during campaign rallies.

The Election Commission does not take over the entire administration of State during election time and it's only in relation to conduct of polls.

"If a violation has taken place, it's the police which has to file an FIR against the concerned person", he pointed out.

"The Election Commission does not have the powers to prosecute anybody; it does not have the powers to even punish anybody".

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