SMS campaigning to be monitored in NE states

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Agartala, Feb 4 (UNI) With the introduction of text messages as one of the media for election campaigns in all three poll-bound NE states - Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland - the Election Commission of India (ECI) has made it clear that the expenditure observers had been instructed to strictly monitor the campaign strategies of the political parties.

Referring to ECI instructions about election campaigns, Tripura Chief Electoral Officer Dr G S G Ayyanger told reporters here today that mobile service providers were asked to reveal the records of poll-related campaigns, including SMS, and the cost would be counted as election expenditure for the particular candidate.

''SMS-related campaigning will be counted and the cost of the SMS will be judged as the candidates' campaigning cost,'' he said.

Directives in this regard had already been issued to all mobile service providers to monitor the bulk text messages and inform it to the election department, he added.

Dr Ayyanger stated that the ECI had also imposed certain restrictions on engagement of poLling agents during the elections and according to ECI guidelines, the polling agents of the political parties should be voters of the particular polling booths where they would be posted.

''Polling agents, coming from outside the jurisdiction of specific polling centres and booths, are strictly prohibited,'' Dr Ayyanger said, adding that the agents would enter into the polling centres with valid documents and electoral photo identity cards which would be scrutinised by the presiding officers.

He also pointed out that following the apex court's verdict, the state election panel had tried to avoid engaging teachers for election duties. However, owing to the scarcity of qualified polling staff, they were forced to take the services of a few teachers for election duties this time, with the permission of the ECI.

The election panel had assured that the teachers would be engaged only in their ''non-teaching and leisure hours or during holidays'' for the election process.

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