The Election Commission has started preparing for the Punjab Assembly polls that is likely to be held in the last week of January or first week of February next year, said state Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) VK Singh on Tuesday.
Singh said a special campaign for revision of electoral rolls, which will include names of all eligible voters, will be held. "A special campaign for revision of electoral rolls from 7 September to 7 October will be held. The campaign is to include names of all eligible voters. People have been asked to get their names enrolled before 2 January next year. This process has to be completed before nomination process (for the election) starts," he said.
The draft roll is available on the website of the CEO Office and claims and objections through forms 6, 6A, 7, 8 and 8A can be filed for the one month starting 7 September. He, however, did not give the exact dates of the election which will be announced by the Election Commission (EC) by the end of this year.
Singh said that as per the data of 2016, Punjab's population stood at 2.95 crore and the biggest gap is in the age group of 18-19 years where the coverage is only 95,022 against an estimate of 11,50,357 eligible persons.
"As per the data, there should have been 1.99 crore eligible voters (those above 18 years). However, the registered voters with us are 1.92 crore. We are trying to get as many new voters registered as possible," the CEO said.
"In 2014 Parliamentary elections, there were 1.96 crore voters. After the Aadhaar-based screening, nearly 4 lakh votes deleted from rolls as these were duplicate voters or people have died," he noted.
Furthermore, to address the issue, Singh said that special campaigns have been launched at educational institutions and through partner organisations and government departments.
The Election Commission of India (ECI) has organised intensive training programmes for all its functionaries, down to the Booth Level Officer (BLO) level, to ensure smooth and hassle-free enrolment of voters or correction in the roll.
The ECI has imposed a ban on transfer of electoral registration related officers and staff in all the departments.
Singh had invited representatives of all the political parties on Tuesday to inform them about the revision programme and seek their cooperation in taking the message to all those who have not been enrolled till now. Also, the soft copies of the draft roll of the 117 Assembly constituencies were handed over to them.
They were requested to appoint agents at all the polling booths to assist the BLO and the Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) in making the rolls "clean and healthy", the statement said.
All BLOs and supervisors are expected to be at their respective polling stations on 10 September and 24 September for the reading of roll and on 11 September and 25 September, the forms will be received by the BLOs at the polling stations.
Teachers, appointed as BLOs, will attend to this work after the school hours.
The CEO has directed the DEOs and EROs to ensure "meticulous compliance" of the ECI's guidelines to "improve the health" of the electoral roll.
Against a total projected population of 2,95,23,569 in the state, the number of people eligible to exercise their franchise in the 18 plus category is estimated to be 1,99,49,125.
The draft electoral roll currently contains 1,92,14,509 voters, covering approximately 96.32 percent of those eligible, Singh said.
During the continuous revision of the electoral roll, 2,09,979 new voters were registered and names of 1,89,638 dead, duplicate, not eligible or shifted voters were deleted, an ECI spokesman had said in a press release on Tuesday.
The Assembly elections in Punjab are crucial this time as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is posing a challenge for the traditional rivals — the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance and the Opposition Congress.
A new political outfit, Awaaz-e-Punjab, was announced by cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu last week.
The Akali Dal-BJP combine, who has been in power in the state since 2007, will take a third shot at power in the upcoming polls.
With inputs from agencies