Even as campaigning for the civic polls begins across the state, it is the difficulty in the printing of voter slips that has become a worrisome issue for political parties. With an intervening Diwali break and a reluctant State Election Commission (SEC), political parties are anxious about low voter turn outs in absence of voter slips.
While the SEC is non-committal about printing the voting slips as rules do not make it mandatory on the SEC to print the slips for local body polls, political parties willing to print on their own account are faced with crisis due to the Diwali break for printing press businesses. This is because the last date of withdrawing candidate nominations is November 10, making it impossible for the election officers to prepare the serial number list of candidates in the fray, earlier. The Diwali festivities in the week mean break time for printing presses that would need to work overtime to print lakhs of voter slips for the polls in a short span of time .
Senior BJP leader Parindu Bhagat said the election process of local body polls to be affected by the non-availability of voter slips. “The candidates cannot be allotted numbers until the time for withdrawals is complete on November 10. Since November 11 is Diwali, printing presses will remain closed almost the entire week and even if the party wishes to print the slips on its own account, it is impossible. The voter turn out could be drastically affected if the voter slips providing all the vital information related to candidates, poll booths and dates of voting are not distributed among the voters. The SEC has chosen a wrong time for the election procedures without considering the festive break while deciding cut off dates for nomination withdrawals. It would be pointless to print the slips later, as the voting day is November 22.”
Shailesh Amin, vice-president of Vadodara Congress says, “This chaos is the doing of the BJP and Chief Election Commissioner, who is a political puppet in the hands of the state government. He first says that the elections cannot be held due to law and order situation for three months. Then he declares the elections without even checking the holidays that would affect the process. If the voter slips are not printed, the voters will not be able to see the candidates list and be unable to decide. Our party had demanded that Election Commissioner Varesh Sinha should be transferred for these very reasons.”
Vadodara DEO Avantika Aulakh said, “The State Election Commission is not bound to print the voter slips for local body polls, but a decision on that is yet to be made. However, it will be difficult to complete the process of distribution of the voting slips due to shortage of time and the Diwali break.”