Bengal may become third state to use EVMs in rural polls | kolkata | Hindustan Times
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Bengal may become third state to use EVMs in rural polls

The state government may need to bear a one-time expenditure of Rs 250 crore to procure about 1.72 lakh EVMs.

kolkata Updated: Oct 23, 2017 09:45 IST
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra already use EVMs to conduct rural polls.
Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra already use EVMs to conduct rural polls. (HT Photo)

After Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal is all set to become the third state to conduct rural polls with electronic voting machines (EVMs). The state is supposed to go to the panchayat polls sometime in the first half of 2018.

Representatives to zilla parishads, panchayat samitis and gram panchayats will be elected through the polls.

Read: Bengal rural polls: Mamata to fight BJP’s ‘appeasement’ slogan with development

The 2018 polls are crucial as it will provide the opportunity to BJP to test its political ground in Bengal, one of its focus states for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, and Trinamool Congress, the opportunity to demonstrate how fortified its political ground is in the face of the rising saffron challenge.

Subrata Mukherjee, the panchayat affairs and rural development minister, said the state government is prepared to go for EVMs in the panchayat polls. (HT Photo)

“There is a strong possibility. If the State Election Commission feels that panchayat polls will be conducted through EVMs, the state government has no objections to it. We are totally ready for EVMs in the rural elections,” panchayat affairs and rural development minister, Subrata Mukherjee, told HT on Sunday.

However, if EVM machines are used in the rural polls, it would not require elaborate arrangements and impose additional burden on the cash-strapped state exchequer, pointed out officer from the state finance department said.

Read: Save Bengal from becoming Kashmir: BJP’s slogan for 2018 rural polls in state

“Three EVMs for each of the 57,178 polling booths coming under panchayat jurisdiction will be required. This means that the state government will have to arrange a minimum of 1,71,534 machines, the estimated cost of which will be to the tune of Rs 250 crore,” said a finance department official.

Sources told HT the office of the State Election Commission held video conferences with officials of the district level authorities and police administration and discussed the possibility of using EVMs in rural polls. In the next stage, the matter might be taken up at the cabinet level.

Meanwhile, officials and staff of the state panchayat affairs and rural development department officials are having a tough schedule following chief minister, Mamata Banerjee’s strict instructions to complete all the pending projects pertaining to rural development are completed before the polls next year.

“Deadlines have been set for each project. Accordingly, unspent funds from other departments have been diverted to the panchayat affairs and rural development department so that funds do not become a constraint for these projects,” said an official.