Our biggest challenge in Punjab is to ensure that the Model Code of Conduct is strictly adhered to, peace and harmony are maintained – EC

Chandigarh, Jan 12 – The Election Commission is seriously concerned over the possibility of huge distribution of cash and inflow of drugs in the run-up to the Punjab Assembly polls even as it promised an adequate security apparatus to maintain peace and harmony at the hustings.

The full Election Commission under the leadership of Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi winded up its two-day visit to Punjab today after collecting “valuable inputs from all the stakeholders”.

“Our biggest challenge in Punjab is to ensure that the Model Code of Conduct is strictly adhered to, peace and harmony are maintained…No clashes take place, misuse of money and inflow of drugs are effectively checked,” Zaidi told reporters here.

He said an “unprecedented” deployment of central forces will be ensured in the poll-bound state to instill confidence among the voters to exercise their franchise “fearlessly”.

Zaidi, however, did not divulge how many companies of central forces will be deployed in the state. Already, 50 companies of central forces have been deployed in Punjab.

“Unauthorised cash movement from different channels might take place in the state for which, a strict vigil will be kept by the enforcement agencies…On inputs, the authorities concerned will pounce upon those involved in distribution of cash,” he said.

Referring to the incidents of stone-pelting and hurling of objects at candidates during campaigning, the CEC said the commission had directed the state police chief to take steps to ensure that such instances were stopped immediately.

“Strict action will be taken against those involved in throwing stones and objects at the candidates during campaigning,” he said.

When his attention was drawn towards an incident in Lambi Assembly segment where a person had hurled a shoe at Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Zaidi said, “The DGP has been asked to look into it and take stern action.”

He said the commission was against speeches inciting violence and added that if a complaint was brought to its notice in this regard, strict action will be taken.

When asked about the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal’s complaint against AAP candidate and MP Bhagwant Mann for delivering “instigating” speeches during campaigning, Zaidi said it was “under consideration”.

As regards Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal reportedly giving an inciting speech, he said no complaint was received by the commission against her.