Now, candidates will also have to sweat it out in army cantts
Soldiers in Himachal Pradesh will no longer be political non-entities. Now, candidates in fray will not only have to walk the nooks and corners of villages to garner support but will also have to sweat it out in the army cantonments to woo soldiers.punjab Updated: Mar 26, 2014 13:23 IST
Soldiers in Himachal Pradesh will no longer be political non-entities. Now, candidates in fray will not only have to walk the nooks and corners of villages to garner support but will also have to sweat it out in the army cantonments to woo soldiers.
The Supreme Court, in its order on Monday, said the Election Commission would have to register the armed forces personnel as voters of the constituencies concerned if they had been posted at such stations since January 1, 2014 and had not chosen to vote through postal ballot or proxy voting.
The order will also apply to the families of such personnel and will do away with the rigour of travelling to native places where they had been registered as voters or use of the less popular mode of postal ballot and proxy voting.
Himachal has a high percentage of defence personnel. There are around 1.75 lakh ex-servicemen and about 1.25 lakh serving defence personnel from the state. Owing to this, the previous Prem Kumar Dhumal government had been urging the Centre to carve out a separate regiment for soldiers from Himachal on the lines of the Punjab Regiment and Jammu and Kashmir Rifles.
There are 10 army cantonments in the state, including Yol, Dharamsala, Ahlal, Palampur, Subathu, Bakloh, Nahan, Pooh and Dalhousie.
Right to vote at the place of posting for armed forces personnel had been a long-pending demand of several ex-servicemen associations working in the state.
“Throughout my service of 35 years, I never got the chance to vote. Most of the times, postal ballots reached us after the elections got over. Arrangements made for postal ballot and proxy voting were never satisfactory,” says Brig Kushal Singh Thakur, who led 18 Grenadiers during the Kargil conflict.
“We have been constantly fighting for giving voting rights to the soldiers at the place of their service. We welcome the Supreme Court decision,” says Brig Thakur, a strong contender for the BJP ticket from Mandi. Thakur heads the Himachal chapter of the India Ex-servicemen chapter.
“Though soldiers will not be able to vote for a candidate in their native constituencies, they will be able to vote for candidates of the constituency where they serve,” he says.
The Indian Ex-servicemen League also hailed the court decision. “All these years, the league has been fighting for the voting rights of soldiers. It is a decision that all soldiers in the country will hail,” says politician and head of Indian Ex-servicemen League Vijay Singh Mankotia.
“Political parties have always remained indifferent to the problems of soldiers. It’s due to this attitude that the army today faces a shortage of around 12,000 officers,” says Mankotia.
The Election Commission will now launch a drive in army cantonments to enrol soldiers on electoral rolls. “Already, a provision for proxy voting was there. Soldiers wanting to vote will be enrolled,” chief electoral officer Narender Chauhan told HT.