The upcoming elections to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) and other urban local bodies (ULBs) will be conducted using ballot paper, due to Covid-19 and other factors, the Telangana State Election Commission (SEC) announced Monday
The SEC had recently sought the opinions of political parties in this regard.
The term of the current GHMC council ends in February 2021 and elections are expected in December or January. The SEC is also mulling use of e-voting applications for senior citizens, disabled persons, and the poll personnel. If implemented, it would be a first in the country.
In a press statement, the SEC said that responses were received from eight out of 11 recognised political parties. Of them, five were in favour of ballot paper, while two did not give a definite opinion and one was in favour of using EVMs. The AIMIM and Congress remained non-committal, while the BJP demanded the use of EVMs.
Eighteen of the 39 registered political parties without reserved symbols also gave their opinions to the SEC. While 11 were in favour of ballot paper, five did not give a definite opinion, and two were in favour of EVMs.
The Commission said the use of EVMs and VVPATs involves several stages “namely, First Level Checking, Second Level checking, Randomization and Commissioning of EVMs. In all the stages, a huge number of Engineers deputed by manufacturers, representatives of political parties, election staff are involved. A huge number of unskilled labour will be deployed for cleaning, unpacking and packing EVMs and VVPATs in a closed environment.”
“During the COVID-19 Pandemic situation, it is felt that conduct of the above activities involve high risk of Community spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) when compared to the use of Ballot Boxes,” it said.
GHMC elections in 2009 and 2016 were conducted using EVMs but without VVPATs.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, K Partha Sarathi, the state election commissioner, said that along with the pandemic, multiple factors made the SEC choose ballots over EVMs, one of them being the non-availability of VVPATs.
“The State Election Commission does not have VVPATs. So, we requested the ECIL, Hyderabad, and BEL, Bangalore to send quotations for procurement. The ECIL and BEL informed that to manufacture VVPATs, the permission of ECI, Delhi is required. They wrote a letter to the ECI for permission to manufacture VVPATs for TSEC. The reply from the ECI is awaited,” said the statement.
According to Sarathi, the use of ballots will also rule out any scope of allegations of EVM tampering, etc.
“In the last GHMC elections, Opposition parties had raised apprehensions over the use of EVMs. The election machinery is always burdened with proving that the machines have not been tampered with. Since the ECI has not given permission yet, we don’t have the time to manufacture VVPATs. Also, considering the pandemic, we have explained to political parties that the EVM requires more human involvement,” he said.
The SEC conducted the Gram Panchayat elections, MPTC/ZPTC elections in 2019, and elections to the urban local bodies in 2020, using ballot paper.