Election panel rejects demand to use ballot paper in civic polls

New Delhi: The Delhi State Election Commission (SEC) on Tuesday rejected Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s demand to hold coming elections to the three municipal corporations in Delhi using ballot papers instead of EVMs.

Kejriwal had asked the commission to conduct the April 22 polls through the old system of ballot papers after allegations by certain political leaders that Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) were tampered with in the just-concluded assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh.

Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken had also approached the commission with the same demand.

Delhi Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Manoj Tiwari said if Kejriwal and Maken do not trust the EVMs, then “Kejriwal should go for re-poll for Delhi assembly (where the AAP won 67 of the 70 seats) and Maken should ask the Congress leadership to call for re-election in Punjab through ballot papers”.

Tiwari said Maken’s and Kejriwal’s demand for ballot papers “demonstrates their utter frustration and apprehension that they will lose the civic elections”.

Announcing the dates for elections to the three municipal corporations — north, south and east Delhi, State Election Commissioner S.K. Srivastava said polling in all 272 wards will be through EVMs.

He said if polls are to be held through ballot ppapers, certain rules will have to be amended.

Calling the EVMs “completely safe”, Srivastava said the poll preparations were made keeping in mind the use of EVMs.

“The dates have been assigned accordingly.”

The results will be declared on April 25, the commission said.

Filing of nominations will be held from March 27 to April 3 and withdrawals allowed till April 8.

The Model Code of Conduct has been enforced in the city with immediate effect.

Outlining the BJP’s strategy, Tiwari said the party will give an opportunity to the youth and no present councillor — or their family members — will get BJP tickets for the civic elections.

After failures in the Punjab and Goa assembly elections, the civic polls are a crucial test for the Aam Aadmi Party’s survival.

The party has already declared candidates for 248 of the 272 municipal wards.

AAP Delhi Convenor Dilip Pandey said just as the BJP and the Congress were swept away during the assembly elections in 2015, when the BJP got three seats and the Congress zero, a similar situation will be seen in the municipal polls.

“People want a clean Delhi and they want to get rid of the BJP and the Congress which have turned Delhi into a garbage dump,” Pandey said.

Appealing for the use of ballot papers, Pandey said recent events have raised questions on the EVMs’ credibility and till these questions are answered, the “use of EVMs is dangerous for the democracy”.

After her Bahujan Samaj Party was routed in the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, party chief Mayawati was the first to allege that Electronic Voting Machines had been “managed” to favour the Bharatiya Janata Party.

She asked the poll panel to order re-polling with ballot papers in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The Election Commission rejected her allegations.