NC, PDP oppose ECI proposal on RVMs

‘Oberoi raises uncertainty concern over J&K assembly polls; CEC acknowledges points’
PDP President Mehbooba Mufti along with NC President Farooq Abdullah at latter's Gupkar Residence.
PDP President Mehbooba Mufti along with NC President Farooq Abdullah at latter's Gupkar Residence. File Photo: Aman Farooq/GK

Jammu: National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the two regional parties from J&K, Monday opposed the proposal of the Election Commission of India (ECI) vis-a-vis use of Remote Electronic Voting Machines (RVMs) for “improving voter participation of domestic migrants.”

They were among 57 recognised regional (state) political parties, besides eight national parties, invited by ECI to participate in the RVM demonstration and discussion on the prospects of remote voting by domestic migrants, in a meet which took place in New Delhi today.

Both J&K’s recognised regional parties, while participating in the deliberations, chose to join the majority of opposition parties which unambiguously vetoed the ECI proposal. Going a step ahead, the NC representative used the occasion to rake up the issue of “inordinate delay in the conduct of J&K assembly elections.” The party even released its statement sharing the viewpoint expressed by its representative there in the ECI meet.

PDP, though, did not issue any official statement on this account so far yet reliable sources within the party did confirm its (PDP’s) opposition to ECI proposal in today’s meeting.

“We’re against this and the party’s representatives aired this viewpoint there. Barring a couple of parties, the majority (of political parties present there) was opposed to it (ECI proposal). PDP also opposed it,” party sources said, while confirming the development.

“NC opposed the ECI proposal on RVMs,” the party said.

NC treasurer Shammi Oberoi, while taking part in the deliberations during the ECI meeting, stated that when the “government was concerned about facilitating domestic migrants to exercise their voting rights, the 1.4 Cr people of Jammu and Kashmir continued to remain deprived from exercising their democratic rights.”

“Oberoi, in the meeting, which included representatives from different political parties of the country, was convened to demonstrate the Remote Electronic Voting machines (RVMs) to facilitate voting among 30 Cr domestic migrants working across the country, stated that J&K, which had not seen elections for the last so many years, was suffering on many fronts,” read NC statement.

He raised the concern that people of J&K were being kept away from exercising their democratic rights and choosing their own government which would have effectively addressed their day to day issues.

“In his response, the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) acknowledged the points raised by Shammi Oberoi and said that the ECI was also concerned about the Assembly elections in J&K. The CEC said that preparations for the polls are underway and that much groundwork has been covered in terms of delimitation of constituencies, electoral rolls revision and booth identification,” NC statement added.

Sources stated that PDP’s chief spokesperson Suhail Bukhari, joined by his other party colleagues too, were on the same page with NC in the meeting with regard to assembly elections in J&K.

In the meanwhile, the ECI in the wake of opposition to its proposal by majority of political parties, both regional and national parties, also extended the date for soliciting their (parties’) views on the specified issues for legal, administrative and statutory changes to bring in clarity on the subject, to February 28.

Earlier the deadline was January 31. Opposition parties found the proposal to use RVMs as “unwarranted” and “faulty.”

Earlier on December 29, the ECI revealed that it had developed a prototype Multi-Constituency Remote Electronic Voting Machine (RVM) which can handle multiple constituencies from a single remote polling booth.

Specifying the need as to why it was necessary, the ECI had mentioned that “it was concerned about the issue of over 30 Cr electors not exercising their franchise and also differential voter turnout in various states/UTs.”

With the objective of finding a technological solution “which is credible, accessible and acceptable to all stakeholders”, the Commission explored the option of using a modified version of the time-tested model of M3 EVMs to enable voting at remote polling stations i.e., polling stations outside home constituency, for domestic migrants. The migrant voter would thus need not travel back to his/her home district to exercise his/her franchise of voting.

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