The Maharashtra government is considering reintroducing ballot papers as a mode of conducting elections, and may introduce a bill during the state assembly’s Budget Session, which is likely to start from March.
Speaking exclusively to News18, Assembly Speaker Nana Patole said he has directed the Uddhav Thackeray government in the state to draft a bill for the reintroduction of ballot papers that will exist along with EVMs. “If the draft is ready, the bill can be introduced in the coming budget session,” the Speaker told News18.
The bill if introduced will only be applicable for state legislature elections and local self-government elections.
If the Thackeray government does go ahead with the politically significant move, it will make Maharashtra the first state to bring in such a legislation for elections to be held on ballot papers and EVMs together.
All three constituents of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government – Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress – are said to be on the same page regarding the reintroduction of ballot papers.
Electronic Voting Machines, or EVMs, have been in the news over the last few years as politicians from opposition parties and activists have raised questions about whether they are at risk of being tampered with. Opposition parties, especially the Congress, have often alleged that EVMs give votes in favour of the BJP and have blamed the machines for their election defeats. The Election Commission, however, has repeatedly refuted the allegations and maintains that EVMs cannot be tampered with.
When asked about the legal ramifications of such a move, Patole told News18 that the state had powers under Article 328 of the Constitution to make this law on conduct of elections. He said that meetings with several stakeholders, including election commission officials, have already been held.
“Article 328 gives the state government the right to make such a law,” he said, adding that an election being fair, neutral and held every five years is the only commitment that the state has to give to the Election Commission.
Whether that is to be held through EVMs or ballot papers is for the state to decide, he said. “People who believe in democracy, people who believe in the fairness of ballot papers will be happy with the move,” he added.
NCP’s Majeed Memon, speaking to News18, confirmed the development, and said there have been a number of complaints with regards to the fairness of conduct of polls using EVMs. “What is important is the faith of people who are casting the votes,” Memon said.
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