New Delhi: With 2019 Lok Sabha elections round the corner, the Election Commission has called an all-party meeting here on Monday to discuss several key questions that will help the Commission prepare the poll roadmap. Although, the meeting agenda does not lay down one nation one poll as a point of discussion, the political parties are expected to raise the point.
The EC has sent out invitations to seven national and 51 regional parties. The issues slated for discussion include: the place of electoral rolls, placing a ceiling on political parties’ expenditure, procedural and timely submission of annual audited reports by parties, demand for paper ballots, adding print media to the definition of mediums on which vote appeals cannot be made prior to election and also how to curb the use of social media just a few days before the polls.
The parties that are likely to attend are: the Congress, Trinamool Congress (TMC), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S), Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Samajwadi Party, CPI-M, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), DMK, CPI, YSR Congress, Kerala Congress Mani (KCM) and AIUDF.
The EC will also inform parties about the progress made in procuring latest EVMs and paper trail machines ahead of general elections. The opposition parties have recently upped their demand to use paper ballots and do away with EVM machines, however, the Commission is likely to discuss how usage of paper trail machines, along with EVMs, can be made into a norm.
Another point which would engage the parties would be ways to improvise the electoral rolls and in such a way that it boosts the transparency factor. Opposition parties are likely to submit points on how to improve the inclusivity of electoral rolls in the system.
According to reports, the agenda note, as sent to political parties also lays down the question of handling social media when campaigning needs to be silenced just 48 hours before the election.
The Commission would discuss and devise ways by which online appeals for votes and campaigning for candidates needs to be curbed too along with hoardings, posters and rallies, if the true meaning of prohibiting campaigning during the last 48 hours before the elections needs to be achieved.
The EC has also laid down the agenda of how to handle the voting by domestic migrants and absentee voters. Domestic migrants are those who are from one particular state but are working in some other sate and hence miss out on voting.
The Commission will ask political parties if alternative ways of voting can be looked at for the voting by absentee voters or domestic migrants by the way of online voting, proxy voting or votes sent by post. Strategies would be discussed at the meet so that maximum voters can be taken into the fold.
Some of the strategies include the linking of voter ID with Aadhaar so that it is not a hindrance for voting.
The Commission is also looking at developing a one-time voluntary registration system for domestic migrants, electoral support services to be provided to migrants at the source and destination areas, raising awareness of voters’ rights and a helpline for domestic migrants are the other measures suggested by the Commission.
Among other issues, representation of women too will be a point of debate among political parties.
The poll panel seeks to address this by seeking views on how women representation can be increased within organisational structures of political parties as well in the means of selecting candidates for the parties.
Placing a ceiling on election expenditure will also figure as a prime topic by which poll panel would seek to understand on how poll expenditure by parties can be regulated. The EC believes there can also be a ceiling placed on such expenditure.
According to sources, the poll panel is likely to press for timely submission of annual audited reports and election expenditure reports.
Despite all the noise around one nation one poll, it does not figure on the agenda list, but political parties are likely to raise the issue.
However, Election Commissioner OP Rawat, in a recent interview to News18, had clearly stated that if Assembly and Lok Sabha elections have to be held simultaneously then EVM machines needs to be ordered as soon as possible because with the present strength, conducting such polls would not be possible.