Too many candidates, too few machines?

Election Commission is afraid that it won't have enough electronic voting machines, if 15 or more candidates contest the BMC elections from every constituency

With the elections drawing nigh, the State Election Commission (EC) has its hands full, dealing with a problem of plenty -- not of voters, but of those vying for power. While participation in the democratic process is always welcome in the world's largest democracy, it appears that the EC is technologically ill-equipped to handle the deluge of BMC candidates, and claims that problems could crop up if more than 15 candidates contest the elections in every constituency, as there aren't enough electronic voting machines (EVMs) to go around. 

MiD DAY had earlier reported how the state government had sanctioned Rs 47.5 crore for the purchase of new EVMs, Rs 5 crore of the sum being extracted from the state's contingency fund ('State has to spend Rs 48 cr on EVMs to appease netas', January 28). 

Political leaders had asked the EC not to count results of the February 7 Zilla Parishad and Panchayat elections ahead of the February 16 civic polls, fearing that it may influence how people vote. Since the machines used in local body polls cannot be reused on February 16, the commission desperately needs more EVMs. And the burgeoning numbers of candidates for each BMC constituency is not helping matters.

Machin(e)ations: MiD DAY had earlier reported how the state 
government had sanctioned Rs 47.5 crore for the purchase of new EVMs, 
after pressure was put on it by netas to declare results for both local 
body and civic body elections together. File pic

The state will now be granted 1,41,000 EVMs for the upcoming local body elections. However, the sanction still doesn't rule out an EVM crunch, especially in the event that 15 candidates contest elections from each of the BMC constituencies. An official from the BMC's election branch office said, "Extra machines are kept during every election, but this time the commission is already falling short of machines, and with more than 15 candidates we would have to rope in more machines for voting." 

The BMC had demanded 11,000 EVMs from the state government for the scheduled elections on February 16. Said Neela Satyanarayan, state election commissioner, "Many candidates are filing nominations, and if there are over 15 candidates in a constituency, there could be a problem. We would try to ease the problem by having as many EVMs at our disposal as we can. The Centre is giving us 26,000 machines, while we have 24,000 in the state." 

An order for 65,000 machines has been placed with the Hyderabad-based Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) a firm that manufactures the machines. In comparison to the 3,546 nominations filed in 2007, 3,424 have been filed this time. "Around 1,000 get withdrawn or disqualified, and still there will be constituencies with over 15 candidates. Moreover, there weren't so many elections taking place so close to each other last time," said a BMC official. 

At present, 48 nominations have been filed from ward number 143, 44 from ward number 103, 43 from ward number 138, and 42 from ward number 134, while only 3 nominations have been filed from ward number 103 in the E ward. The elections for 27 zilla parishads and 309 panchayat samitis are scheduled for February 7, while polling for the 10 municipal corporations will be held on February 16. 

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