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58% officers in MP govt fail to clear poll panel’s test for election duty

Bhopal : If two candidates file nomination papers on behalf of a political party, who will be the official nominee? When do candidates forfeit their security deposit? If a person is convicted for a jail term of three years by a lower court and gets bail from the high court, are they eligible to contest elections?

Fifty-eight per cent of the people who were asked such questions in a test conducted by Madhya Pradesh’s chief electoral officer failed to answer them correctly, according to an official familiar with the developments.

The people who wrote the test — conducted for the first time by the Election Commission (EC) of India on August 18 — were officers of the rank of additional district magistrates (ADMs), sub-divisional magistrates (SDMs) and revenue officers in the Madhya Pradesh government.

They are all meant to be assigned the key duties of returning officers and assistant returning officers in the state assembly elections later this year.

“Every officer on election duty must know what the rules and regulations are so that election is error free and nobody is able to challenge the results in the court,” said Madhya Pradesh’s chief electoral officer VL?Kantha Rao while explaining the rationale for conducting the hour-long test. He said the test was conducted for first time to see the efficiency of officers below the rank of district collectors.

“In all, 561 officers appeared in the test after getting a training in Bhopal about to rules and regulations that need to be followed in conduct of the election. Only 238 cleared the test,” Rao said.

The officer said the qualifying mark for the test was 70%. Instead of getting a ‘pass’ or ‘fail’, those who failed to get 70% got were declared ‘not up to the mark’. They will have to appear again for another test at a later date, and if they don’t get through on the second attempt, will be debarred from discharging any election duties this year.

The electoral officer will then write to the state government to take action against them.

Some of the officers appearing for the test were not happy.

“We are already overburdened with work related to revenue collection and law and order. Instead of a test, they should give us a user guide. This will be more helpful to us in conducting an error free election,” said a revenue officer who asked not to be named.

Another officer who did not qualify said: “We were supposed to get an hour or so for the test but in effect we were given just half an hour.”

Incidentally, the answers to the three questions posed are: a candidate with a nomination letter from the party is the official candidate; candidates lose their security deposits if they fail to get one-sixth of the total votes polled; a person can contest elections if a high court has stayed the conviction by a lower court.

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