MP Congress seeks ballot paper voting in bypolls citing COVID-19

MPCC chief Kamal Nath writes to Election Commission of India on the issue

Kamal Nath ANI MP CM Kamal Nath | Twitter handle of ANI

The Madhya Pradesh Congress has sought use of ballot paper for voting in the impending bypolls to 26 assembly seats in the state, citing safety of voters in view of COVID-19 pandemic.

Former chief minister and MP Congress Committee chief Kamal Nath, on Wednesday, wrote to the Election Commission of India, saying voting through ballot paper would be a judicious move as it would protect voters against the COVID-19 infection.

Kamal Nath’s letter comes in the wake of ECI’s move to seek suggestions and opinions from various political parties on necessary steps to be taken during the campaigning and voting for the ensuing bypolls. The ECI had sought these suggestions on July 17.

The commission is yet to decide on the election dates, though going by the constitutional norms the elections should be completed before the second week of September–before six months from the time 22 Congress MLAs resigned from their seats.

However, COVID-19 cases are still surging in the state, especially in the Gwalior-Chambal region where most of the bypolls are scheduled.

The office of the Madhya Pradesh chief electoral officer (CEO) has asked the district collectors of all the districts where bypolls are pending, to submit reports on COVID-19 situation by July end.

MP CEO Veera Rana, while speaking to THE WEEK, said such processes are routine given the current situation and necessary for standard operating procedure (SOPs) for the bypolls to be put in place. She said dates for the byelections have not been conveyed yet by the ECI and added that once it is conveyed, it will be shared with the media.

Meanwhile, in his letter to the chief election commissioner (CEC), Kamal Nath said the Congress party had on an earlier occasion (June 19) written to the ECI, seeking ballot paper voting. He said there is a likelihood of almost 1,000 voters exercising their franchise in each of the voting centres and if all of them touch the same EVM machine with their fingers to cast their votes, there will be high risk of spread of infection. In such a situation, use of ballot papers will be safer for the voters.

Kamal Nath further said in the letter that the Congress party will be adhering to all the norms and guidelines issued by the ECI under the Disaster Management Act 2005 for the conduction of the bypolls and any other guidelines issued in the future.

Independence Day celebration to be symbolic

Meanwhile, the state cabinet, on Wednesday, decided that the Independence Day celebrations this year will be symbolic in the state due to COVID-19. The cabinet decided that there will be no fanfare on the occasion and people’s representatives will not hoist the tricolor as is done every year. Rather, local officers will unfurl the national flag in the government offices and establishments in presence of limited people, Home Minister Narottam Mishra said following the cabinet meeting. Besides, school students will not be part of any programme on the day, the cabinet decided