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Common pool of EVMs mooted

By Our Special Correspondent

HYDERABAD, FEB. 21. The State Election Commissioners' conference has mooted a proposal to have a "common pool of Electronic Voting Machines" for a group of neighbouring States for use in local bodies elections and share the expenditure incurred in procuring them.

Briefing reporters after the one-day conference, the State Election Commissioners of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and others said the proposal envisaged the use of a "pool of EVMs" by the neighbouring States as elections to local bodies would be held at different times in the respective States. The conference also discussed the idea of making it "bankable" through a viable revenue model for obtaining loans from banks to purchase the EVMs.

Elaborating further, the Andhra Pradesh SEC, K. Madhava Rao, said that it would cost nearly Rs. 100 crores for a State to meet the entire expenditure for procuring EVMs for local bodies elections. "That kind of investment is difficult." He said the Election Commission of India had earlier turned down the request of some of the SECs for providing EVMs used in the Assembly and Lok Sabha polls for the local bodies elections on the ground that the machine would get "locked in" if there was an election petition in a court.

He said the Electronics Corporation of India (ECIL) has now developed an EVM in which the memory chip containing the details of election results could be removed. In view of this facility, the entire machine need not be "locked in" in cases relating to election petition and "we will pursue with the Election Commission of India to spare some of the EVMs," he added.

Briefing on other issues, Karnataka's SEC, C. Chikkanna, said the conference resolved that the production of voter identity card issued by the Election Commission or any of the 18 documents prescribed by the EC as proof of identity should be mandatory for the local bodies elections. The conference noted that the Supreme Court order on disclosure of information by the candidates contesting the local bodies elections was implemented by 14 States and the others were in the process of implementing it.

With regard to the system of the State Election Commissioner registering political parties at the time of the local bodies elections, as was introduced in Andhra Pradesh, he said the Conference felt that the other SECs were free to implement it as per their discretion. It was decided that the ceiling on expenditure should be enforced by the States which have not yet done so. It was also decided that the Assembly electoral rolls should be adopted for local bodies and the issue of including details on wards and streets in the same rolls would be taken up with the EC by the Convener of the Election Commissioners conference.

Mr. Chikkanna said the conference resolved that all States should follow the example of those which have incorporated specific provisions in their respective Acts and Rules to consider the polling personnel as on deputation to the SEC and that they shall be subject to the control/superintendence and discipline of SEC.

With regard to the declaration of a lone candidate belonging to the weaker sections as elected, the decision taken by the Andhra Pradesh SEC would be followed by the other States. It was also decided that the other States should follow the example of Tamil Nadu and Kerala which incorporated rules declaring the election expenditure returns as a public document.

Certain other measures initiated by the Andhra Pradesh SEC, such as the appointment of non-official independent observers in the local bodies elections and ordering of re-poll where the tendered votes exceeded two per cent, were also discussed.

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