EC rejects Kejriwal’s demand to use ballot papers in MCD polls, says less time left

New Delhi: The Delhi State Election Commission on Tuesday said very less time was left for holding the municipal elections using ballot papers instead of EVMs, as sought by the AAP government.

State Election Commissioner S K Srivastava said that if the Delhi government wants voting through ballot papers, rules have to be amended first, which was a time-consuming exercise.

He said that the Commission has made all preparations for civic body elections keeping in mind use of EVMs only, adding that as per his views, there is no possibility of “tampering with” the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).

Srivastava’s remarks came hours after Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal directed Chief Secretary M M Kutty to write to the Commission with request to hold civic body polls through ballot papers.

“We have sent our comments on all secured points of EVMs to the Delhi government. The Commission has made all preparations for the polls keeping in mind use of EVMs only.”

“If the government wants voting to be held through ballot papers in MCD polls, rules have to be amended first as we are governed by rules,” Srivastava said while addressing a press conference here.

EVMs were used in MCD elections in 2007 and 2012. Bypolls to some municipal seats had also been held in 2013 and 2016 through EVMs as well, he said.

“I have told the government that as election dates have already been announced and in view of this, we don’t have much time left.”

“I have also told the government that there is no problem in holding MCD elections through EVMs. I have now left it to the government which has to take a final call,” Srivastava said.

Asked about who has powers to amend rules, Srivastava said that powers of the central government are delegated to the L-G who can only amend the existing rules.

He said that for conducting polls through ballot papers, the Commission should have ballot boxes, which are not made currently and also, we have to print papers.

Talking about the security measures, the State Election Commissioner said, “EVMs are checked twice. Before the sealing of EVMs, they are sent to RO (returning officers). Thereafter, EVMs are sealed and checked in presence of candidates. Also, before the counting, EVMs are also opened before candidates.”

Earlier in the day, Kejriwal expressed reservations about electronic voting machines and sought the use of ballot papers in the upcoming civic body polls in the national capital.

In his note to the Chief Secretary, Kejriwal said, “Since the time left is very little, CS should get prepared a proposal for making necessary amendments to the rules and ensure that the proposal reaches LG by this evening through proper channels…”

“If the proposal needs Cabinet approval before being sent to LG, the same may be convened today.”

The move comes close on the heels of Mayawati questioning the “reliability” of electronic voting machines (EVMs). She had alleged that they were tampered with in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, where her party suffered a debacle.

For the first time in MCD elections, None Of The Above (NOTA) option will be available, Srivastava said.

With the announcement of the date for MCD polls, the Model Code of Conduct has come into force in the national capital.

Number of seats reserved for woman in North MCD is 42 while in South MCD is 45. East MCD has 27 seats reserved for women.

According to the commission, around 17,000 personnel will be deployed for the polls. In North Delhi, 5,170 polling stations will be set up, while in SDMC and EDMC, 5,074 and 2,990 polling stations will be set up respectively.

The State Election Commission said that voters can exercise their franchise after producing photo electoral rolls, electors photo identity cards and photo voter slips.

During poll campaigning, loudspeakers will not permitted at night between 10 PM and 6 AM.

On being asked about board exams of Class XII which is scheduled on the day of polling, Srivastava said, “If there is any exam on that date, we will make separate arrangements for voting and exams will be held separately by erecting barricades in school premises.”

He said that before the commencement of polling, a mock poll will be conducted in presence of polling agents.