The Election Commission on Wednesday ruled out the use of ballot paper in next month's Maharashtra Assembly elections, terming them "history" and defended the use of Electronic Voting Machines or EVMs, saying these machines cannot be tampered with.
"We have told political parties that ballot paper is history and going back to it is not possible," Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora told reporters at press conference in Mumbai.
Mr Arora's comments came in the wake of parties like Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party demanding the end of the Electronic Voting Machines or EVMs and the return of the ballot paper.
On Wednesday, the poll body chief held meetings with officials from across the state including the Chief Secretary, Director General of Police for Maharshtra and Commissioner of Police for Mumbai, to review preparedness for the elections scheduled next month.
The Election Commission is likely to announce dates for the election next week. When Mr. Arora was asked about how many phases Maharashtra would vote in, he replied in one line. "You will get to know on TV on during the press conference," Mr. Arora said. The Chief Election Commissioner also spoke on the Congress's demand to delete bogus voters names on electoral list. "Initially the Congress representative who came to the meeting said there was no response from outside. We pulled out the response that had been sent to his office but then he said there was some issues and we said that if you have further issues you can send it to the Chief Electoral Officer and we will see what response is to be given."
He also clarified on the demand of the Shiv Sena to raise the expenditure limit for the candidates from the present Rs 28 lakh per candidate. "Some parties specifically demanded that the existing limit on expenditure for the candidate be raised. Some parties demanded that it be lowered. We told them that when the commission goes back we will consider it," he said.
The Election Commission also announced that it would try and reduce the use of plastic. "We have told officials to avoid use of plastics as much as possible," Mr Arora said.
More central armed forces would be deployed in Left wing extremism-affected areas of the state, he said. "Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) will be deployed in adequate numbers. Home Ministry has been consulted and figure has been arrived at. Left Wing Extremism affected areas will see more CAPF deployment," he said.
The Chief Election Commissioner said several steps have already been taken to voters don't face inconvenience at polling booths. "5,300 polling stations have been shifted to ground floor. Those situated on the first floor will have lifts," he told reporters during his briefing.
Mr Arora said that the poll body is also looking for ways to improve turnout In Maharashtra. "Turnout was 61% in Maharashtra in General elections as against the national average of 67% nationally. We need to make efforts to improve this," Mr. Arora said.