Tamil Nadu parties divided on postal ballots for elderly

At a meeting with CEC, they pitch for a single-phase Assembly election

Representatives of major political parties in Tamil Nadu on Wednesday urged the visiting team of the Election Commission of India (ECI), led by Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, to hold the Assembly election in a single phase. However, opinion was divided on allowing voters aged above 80 and the differently abled to cast postal ballots.

As of January 20, Tamil Nadu had over 6.24 crore eligible voters, including 12,98,406 persons aged above 80.

Mr. Arora, along with Election Commissioners Sushil Chandra and Rajiv Kumar, met the representatives of nine parties in Chennai. They also held a meeting with the District Election Officers, the Superintendents of Police and senior officials to review preparedness.

“Since it would be hot in May, we requested the Commission to hold the Assembly election in the fourth week of April,” AIADMK leader and Deputy Assembly Speaker Pollachi V. Jayaraman told journalists.

The AIADMK preferred single-phase polling and welcomed postal ballots for the elderly, who are unable to make it to the polling booths. Mr. Jayaraman justified spending on government advertisements ahead of the election.

DMK MP R.S. Bharathi, who raised the issue of the six representations the party had submitted to Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Satyabrata Sahoo, said, “He [Mr. Arora] instructed the CEO to reply to the complaint within three days.”

The party was prepared to face the election “even tomorrow”. The DMK sought security at Madhavaram, where EVMs from several Assembly constituencies would be stored.

Mr. Bharathi complained about the government spending on advertisements.

The Congress, too, preferred single-phase polling. “We wanted the election observers to be from other States,” said its vice-president R Damodaran. He also wanted adequate paramilitary forces deployed across the State and the counting completed within 10 days of polling. He felt that postal ballots for the elderly would lead to malpractices.

BJP leader K.T. Raghavan placed a set of demands, including web-casting from all polling stations and avoiding election on Tamil New Year Day. He urged the Commission to exercise caution on postal ballots as there were chances of irregularities. “We have not totally rejected it,” he said.

CPI(M) leader T.K. Rangarajan said his party favoured national political consultations to decide on postal ballots for the elderly. The party called for increasing CCTV networks during the election.

CPI representative Mu. Veerapandian urged the Commission to restrain the government from conducting functions closer to the election and sought implementation of the Indrajit Gupta Committee’s recommendations on electoral reforms. The CPI was against postal ballots for the elderly.

B. Parthasarathy, representing the DMDK, complained about the allotment of certain symbols to independents, which closely resembled his party’s ‘murasu’ (nagara) symbol. It wanted the Commission to disallow parties from making “unimplementable” promises.

NCP representative G.P. Sarathy preferred a return to ballot papers, while Trinamool Congress’s A. Kalaivanan sought updating of the electoral rolls.

The Commission will hold meetings with Chief Secretary Rajeev Ranjan and senior officials on Thursday before leaving for Puducherry.

Source: Read Full Article