By Rohit Bhatachaarya
An unprecedented technological development is about to take place in the Indian electoral process. For the first time, drones containing cameras are going be used during the civic body elections in Uttar Pradesh to maintain the law and order situation. This region is notoriously infamous for its socio-political volatility, which is amplified at the time of elections. In light of recent controversies regarding corrupt election practices like vote rigging and voter intimidation, drones will also be used for thorough surveillance of the electoral process on the all-important voting day, 26 November.
Situation on the ground
According to a public official, 85 polling centres in Mathura have been chosen for webcasting. Videography shall be conducted at 95 polling booths across the state. The official stated that five drones fitted with cameras would be used for detailed monitoring of the election process. 290 polling booths have been identified as oversensitive and 280 have been identified as sensitive.
Moreover, Senior Superintendent of Police, Swapnil Mamgai said that polling centres would be protected by the Provincial Armed Constabulary. He informed the press that two company CRPFs, five company PACs, 300 sub-inspectors, 500 constables and 800 home guards from Agra had been deployed for the election process.
Tainted history of violence
From Dadri to Muzaffarnagar, the state has previously witnessed brutal and tragic incidents of violence during local as well as assembly elections. In fact, this year itself, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader was arrested for inciting communal violence in the Lakhimpur Kheri district. A report had also surfaced after the U.P assembly elections, which detailed the violence dished out by Samajwadi Party (SP) workers in the Balia district to the native villagers for voting in favour of the BJP.
In 2010, violent clashes had erupted between rival supporters in the similar three-tier Panchayat elections in the state. Reports of the usage of bullets, bombs and stone-throwing emerged from nearly all districts and the violence claimed the life of one person and injuries to more than two dozen people. All these incidents are emblematic of the jungle raj in the state. This results in the disruption of law and order during elections when it is needed to be at its best. The present administration hopes to avoid any such untoward incidents through the utilisation of this novel technology.
Technology to restore voter confidence
The first phase of the UP civic elections had witnessed a relatively low voter turnout compared to the usually high standards of the state. The Opposition alleges that voters have lost faith in the authenticity of the electoral process following the electronic voting machines (EVM) scandal during the Assembly polls in February-March in which it was alleged that the BJP had tampered with the EVMs to record votes in their favour. Even during the present elections, reports have emerged from Kanpur and Meerut that the pressing of any button on the EVM machine only resulted in the selection of the BJP. There have also been reports of EVM malfunctioning in Gorakhpur.
Fears of communal clashes and other such security concerns could also be a significant factor behind the low voter turnout during the first phase of the elections. This could be a possible reason behind the administration’s decision to employ the drones along with the deployment of various security personnel in large numbers in order to restore the public’s faith and confidence in the safety and sanctity of the electoral process.
Polls so far
The campaigning for the second phase of the UP civic elections came to a close on 25 November, with voting scheduled to take place of on the next day. The second phase of the election encompasses 25 districts, including Varanasi, which is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency. A voter turnout of over 52 per cent, a steep decline from the 64 per cent voting recorded during the assembly elections earlier this year, was recorded on 22 November which included 24 districts. The polls for the third and final phase which covers 26 districts is scheduled to be held on 29 November. The vote count for all three phases is supposed to take place on December 1 with results to be announced on the same day.
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