New Delhi, Jun 29 (PTI) CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury has written to the Election Commission of India objecting to the 'unilateral measures' being taken by the poll panel in 'altering' electoral procedures without consulting political parties, and asked if the 'tearing hurry' was due to the upcoming Bihar assembly polls.
'We are greatly disturbed by the media reports that the Election Commission of India (ECI) bypassing the established practice of consulting political parties, is unilaterally initiating measures to provide voters aged over 64 years, the use of postal ballots,' he said in the letter addressed to the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC).
Keeping in mind the safety of senior citizens amid rising cases of coronavirus, the age limit for voters to opt for postal ballot in Lok Sabha and assembly elections has been reduced to 65, which was earlier 80.
After the COVID-19 outbreak in India, Bihar will be the first state to have assembly polls. And voters of Bihar will be the first to benefit from the amended rules.
'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 political parties, representing people, as principal stakeholders. They have been invariably involved in forging a consensus while ushering in changes in the procedures for the conduct of elections,' Yechury said.
This was also the process that was followed to introduce the Model Code of Conduct (MCC), he said, adding that this practice has reinforced transparency in the system.
He said that contrary to the past practice, the current changes in the Rules, both in October, 2019 (when people with disabilities and those above 80 years were allowed to vote via postal ballots) and that on June 19 this year (age limit reduced to 65 years) have not been preceded by an consultation with 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 this year,' Yechury said.
He said our electoral system has always treated physical verifiability of voters as the bedrock of integrity.
'With the two amendments to the Rules, a very large number of voters will be out of the verifiability matrix.
'This assumes great significance because of instances of manipulation and malpractice even with the comparatively low number of postal ballots used by service personnel on election duty. I am looking forward to a positive consideration and response by the EC,' he said. PTI ASG KJ