While on the issue of costs, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) VS Sampath found to his amazement that “polling at all costs” can’t happen. For one, the ‘cost’ is simply too high.
In a discussion with senior district and police officials at Raipur, Sampath insisted on the use of GPS instruments and regular updates to ascertain that polling booths were set up deep in the forests of Bastar. Security forces have asked for 300 polling booths to be shifted to safer places in approachable areas. The CEC wants only half that number (160) shifted. Things reached an impasse when finally Sampath asked how many armed soldiers would be required to man these hot spots. The reply stunned him into silence: 200 men per booth. Currently, 2,500 booths in Bastar get a posse of 10 men each.
The voting stats are also damning. Most of these booths have not witnessed a single vote cast in the past three elections. So, in effect, nearly a sixth of Bastar’s booths never see any voting.
Sampath finally agreed that repolling may be the only way out, giving security forces enough opportunity to send bigger platoons to fewer booths after the main polling day. And the GPS? Sampath was smart enough to junk it for now and announced — a little grandiosely perhaps — that 1,000 video cameras will be used instead.