Ahead of Bihar elections, big change in voting rules

CPI-M shoots angry letter to Election Commission

In the new notification issued by the Ministry of Law & Justice on Thursday, people over the age of 65 years will now be able to vote by postal ballot in the wake of coronavirus pandemic in the country.

The notification was issued ahead of Bihar assembly elections which is expected to take place somewhere between October and November. Apart from this, Bengal’s assembly elections are to be held early 2021.

 

The Covid-19 situation in the country is turning dire with states recording high number of cases everyday. Currently, India’s coronavirus tally has crossed the 6 lakh mark.

Meanwhile, the CPI-M has shot off an angry letter to the Election Commission over the poll panel “altering” electoral procedures, which the party claims is being done without political consultations.

Communist Party of India-Marxist General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, in his letter to Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, has said how he is “greatly disturbed” by the news.

“We are greatly disturbed by the media reports that the Election Commission of India, bypassing the established practice of consulting political parties, is unilaterally initiating measures to provide voters, aged over 65 years, the use of postal ballots,” he said.

The age limit for voters to can opt for postal ballot in Lok Sabha and assembly polls has been reduced to 65. Earlier, that age bar was 80. This decision was taken in view of the coronavirus outbreak as the Centre has repeatedly asked those above 65 to stay indoors since they are vulnerable to the disease.

But now, with the Bihar election on the horizon, Yechury feels the “tearing hurry” in which the age bar was brought down was “unilateral”.

“In the past, the ECI, despite the wide ranging and comprehensive powers under Article 324 for ‘control and superintendence’ of elections mandated by the Constitution, has always insisted that they will not exercise this power unilaterally. This had created an extremely healthy precedent of recognising the political parties, representing the people, as principal stakeholders,” he noted.

He said that the “current changes in the Rules, both in October 2019 and that on June 19, 2020 have not been preceded by any consultation with the political parties whatsoever”.

“From the media reports, we are constrained to infer that the tearing hurry that the ECI displays is on account of the impending Bihar Assembly elections scheduled to be held in November 2020,” he alleged.

Highlighting how the move may help the ruling BJP-JD-U alliance, Yechury wrote: “A consensus among political parties and ECI is necessary for introducing new voting practices which will adversely affect the verifiability of a large number of voters, thus, transparency and integrity of the process; not to mention, the leverage available to the incumbent administration in organising the postal ballots.”

The CPI-M demanded that the poll panel should not “unilaterally proceed further” in implementing these changes without “proper and transparent consultation” so that a “level playing field” is ensured. (IANS inputs)

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