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EC also preparing ballot papers

By Lalit K. Jha

NEW DELHI OCT. 18. Even though the Election Commission of India has announced that electronic voting machines would be used in all the Assembly constituencies of Delhi, its officials are also preparing ballot papers in case the total number of candidates exceeds 64 in any constituency.

The Chief Electoral Officer, Delhi, Arun Goel, said EVMs had their own limitations and cannot accommodate more than 64 candidates in one seat. "In that case we would be left with no choice but to use ballot papers and ballot boxes. We would have to make some special provision for this,'' he said.

He said the present set of EVMs have two units -- ballot unit where the voter castes his / her vote and the control unit which is controlled by the election officials. One ballot unit has provision for 16 candidates and one control unit could control four ballot units at the most. "Thereafter, it would create logistics problem,'' he said. EVMs were first used in the Capital, though partially, in the 1997 Lok Sabha polls and it is for the first time that these would be used in all the 70 Assembly constituencies. Arguing that EVMs will save a lot of money in the long run and are environment friendly, Mr. Goel said it would also save the Commission a lot of harassment.

Given the number of candidates in the last two Assembly elections in 1993 and 1998 it is unlikely that the Election Commission would have to resort to ballot paper in some seats for the December 1 polls. However, officials are preparing themselves for any situation as some of the non-government organisations have declared that they would try to field as many as 100 candidates in some Assembly constituencies.

In the last two Assembly elections, Nasirpur had the distinction of having the maximum number of candidates. While in 1993, 45 candidates were in the fray; in 1998 there were 47.

However, the Commission might have to use more than one ballot unit in a number of Assembly constituencies. In the 1998 elections more than 16 candidates were in the fray in Sahbabad Daulatpur (18), Tughlakabad (19), Badarpur (17), Mandawali (17), Seelampur (18), Ghonda (18) and Karawal Nagar (17) Assembly constituencies. On an average 11.6 candidates contested for each of the seat in the 1998 Assembly polls.

The Election Commission has arranged for as many as 10,641 EVMs for 8,666 polling stations. "Normally it is one EVM per polling booth and the rest have been kept as standby. In case there are more than 16 candidates in a large number of constituencies, we can bring ballot units from other States at a short notice,'' Mr. Goel said.

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