Additional municipal commissioner and head returning officer for BMC elections Aseem Gupta talks about the mammoth task of organising elections to the countrys richest municipal body. After engaging and training over 40,000 government employees on the proper usage of EVMs and ensuring the physical safety of the machines,Gupta hopes for a smooth election day with a much better voter turnout.
In comparison to all elections that you have handled in the past,in addition to the Nagpur municipal elections where you were the commissioner,what is it about the BMC elections that will stand out?
One of biggest achievements of the State Election Commission and municipal bodies this time is the modification that we have made to our EVMs,rendering them totally tamper-proof. In a short time,we managed to carry out six major technical changes like inserting nano non-clonable chips in the 9,350 EVMs that will be used in Mumbai on Thursday. This will greatly enhance the trust factor and minimise and chances of rigging. The scale of activities,resources and logistics required to carry out elections in Mumbai is almost 20 times as compared to any other city in Maharashtra and to ensure secure,free and fair elections will be the biggest challenge.
In terms of logistics,what was the biggest challenge,especially in the backdrop of SECs directive to greatly minimise the number of non-ground floor booths?
In Mumbai,the presence of large slum pockets makes it necessary to have make-shift pandals as polling booths,that considerably add to the cost. Due to the SEC directive,we had to increase the number of make-shift polling locations to almost 250. Moreover,the vehicles requirement is also huge. In addition to 4,000 BEST buses,we have had to mobilize at least two to three taxis for each of the 2,000 plus polling locations.
What is your biggest concern for the D-Day? Are you satisfied with security arrangements of the police?
Security obviously is on top of our mind as it is the most fragile aspect of elections. But largely the political parties in this city are responsible and the chances of rigging or booth capturing are very low. However,the visibility and pressure on us is much higher since it is a very important election for all the main political parties in the state and also in the country to an extent. It becomes even more important for us to give it a fair and balanced treatment. Police is doing as much as they can.
You were head of the state-appointed committee to introduce e-voting. How disappointed are you that neither e-voting nor e-kiosks could become a reality? And the SMS services for finding your polling booths are not working too.
E-voting is a great concept and Mumbai is the best city for introducing it. But there is a big mental hurdle amongst leaders about its security. This time we did not even have the required budget to implement e-voting. But I would sincerely like to see this city adopt e-voting in the next three to four years. E-kiosks,which would enable voting from a different part of the city,was a great concept for Mumbai since so many people travel over 20 kms from home to work everyday. Moreover,the SMS services are getting burdened I think. I have been trying to get my own details without any success. But thankfully the website is working well.