The second phase of elections for the cooperative bodies in the state might see officers using electronic voting machines (EVM) instead of the traditional ballot paper. Officers of the State Cooperation Election Commission said they would seek funds from the state government to procure special EVMs to conduct the polls.
Elections to over two lakh cooperative institutions in the state were necessitated after the Bombay High Court’s order to conduct them. Former cooperation commissioner Madhukar Choudhari was appointed as the election commissioner of the elections. The first phase of the elections saw 62,000 cooperative institutions like sugar mills, district central cooperative banks, urban cooperative banks, cooperative credit societies along with cooperative housing societies going for polls.
Senior officials of the commission said that EVMs, which have to be used for the cooperative body’s elections, are different from the ones used by the Election Commission. These EVMs are multipost machines which should allow for multiple voting options. Most cooperative bodies see voters electing panels. “We have tried out using EVMs in three elections and the results are encouraging. It will allow us to conduct the whole process of election in a relatively lesser time,” said officials. The commission has raised a budgetary head of Rs 2.5 crore for procuring EVMs in the first phase. Incidentally, the second phase of elections for at least 7,000 cooperative societies is to start soon.
Meanwhile, the first phase of the elections threw up several interesting trends about cooperative societies in general. At least 70 per cent of the elections were done unopposed with the existing body getting a repeat chance. Closely contested elections were seen for sugar mills, district central cooperative banks and state level federations. Elections for housing societies, urban credit societies, and urban banks were unopposed mostly. At least 50 per cent of the Primary Agricultural Cooperative Societies (PACS) saw elections in the rural parts.
Cooperative societies, especially the sugar mills or the banks, have traditionally been seats of power for the state.
Of immense importance in the rural economy, these bodies have been controlled by the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) for years together. While the ruling BJP and Shiv Sena had tried to gain a foothold in the sector, their presence has been minimal mostly.