The State Election Commission (SEC) may have encouraged online voting during the municipal elections but it is going back to ballots and boxes for the polls to be held in more than 11,000 gram panchayats later this year.
Sources in the SEC indicated that the commission doesn’t have enough electronic voting machines (EVMs) to conduct the gram panchayat elections. “The commission is considering various options to conduct the elections and has not yet taken a final decision. There are not enough EVMs in the state to hold elections in more than 11,000 gram panchayats of Gujarat,” an official said. The official further said that there are currently around 40,000 EVMs in the state which can be used to conduct the gram panchayat elections.
“But the SEC will need nearly 2 lakh machines for that and that is very large number. Moreover, computer literacy in rural areas is low. Except in a few villages, it is not feasible to conduct election through online voting,” the official said. The option of ballot papers and boxes is, therefore, also under consideration.
“The commission has nearly one lakh ballot boxes. It is estimated that around 80,000 of them will be needed to conduct the gram panchayat elections. So, we are considering this option,” the official said.
Sources in the state panchayat department, however, said that the state government is planning to have more ‘samras’ gram panchayats in which panchayat leaders are elected unopposed.
“Around 28% of gram panchayats were declared ‘samras’ in the last elections. This time we are expecting their number to be around 51% of the total,” the sources said.