BENGAL POLL OFFICIALS WORRIED OVER NUMBER OF CANDIDATES CROSSING 15 AS THIS WILL REQUIRE ADDITIONAL EVM BALLOT UNITS
By bappaditya paul
More the merrier but not this election! The election officials in West Bengal are keeping their fingers crossed over the high number of candidates in some of the Lok Sabha seats as this will require additional number of EVM ballot units, which the state do not have.There are 77,241 polling stations in West Bengal and keeping the mandatory 25 per cent EVMs in reserve to replace the malfunctioning ones during voting, the state requires a total of 98,615 EVMs for the five phase polls. Of them, 96,551 EVMs are needed for elections to the 42 Lok Sabha seats and the remaining 2,064 are meant for by-elections to the six Assembly seats to be held simultaneously.
As against this the state has 1,01,000 EVMs and going by simple calculation, it shall still have 2,385 spare EVMs. But this simple math has gone for a toss this election with the number of contestants crossing 15 in at least one Lok Sabha seat so far. The Malda South constituency that goes to the poll in the third phase on 30 April has 17 contestants.
An EVM consists of two parts ~ one ballot unit (BU) and one control unit (CU); one BU can accommodate a maximum 15 candidate names and the slot number 16 is designated for NOTA. Hence the number of candidates crossing 15 in a constituency means one additional BU will be needed for each of the polling stations in that constituency. In Malda South, the number of polling stations is 1,510 and the requirement for additional BU is 1,888, which the election officials has managed from the 2,385 EVMs that they had in spare. But the election officials in the state are anxious about the way out if the number of candidates crosses 15 in any of the remaining 23 Lok Sabha seats in state that are slated to vote in the fourth and fifth phase.
“After meeting the additional BU requirement in Malda South, we now have in hand only 497 spare EVMs. We will face severe difficulty even if one more Lok Sabha seat throws up more than 15 contestants; this is more so because on an average each of our Lok Sabha constituencies has 1,840 polling stations,” said an official posted in the office of the state Chief Electoral Officer (CEO). Another official said that the EVM shortage surfaced due to the Election Commission’s decision to conduct by-polls in the six vacant Assembly seats in the state simultaneously with the Lok Sabha polls and the failure on part of the Hyderabad-based PSU, the Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL), to supply the intended number of EVMs.
“ECIL was to supply us 15,000 EVMs by 31 March but so far they have provided only around 2,500. Had they supplied the full consignment, we conduct the polls in a relax mood,” the officer said.
To cope with the situation, the state CEO office has now made a special arrangement with the Election Commission’s permission, to use the unused EVMs of one-phase polls in the later phases. For this, the CEO has issued a notification on 10 April. Furthermore, they are hoping to get 5,000 EVMs from ECIL next week.
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 16 April 2014.)