EC puts onus on army on postal ballots issue

Dehra Dun: As the war of words escalate between BJP and Congress over the postal-ballot issue in Uttarakhand, the Election Commission has put the onus on the army for the large number of undelivered postal ballots.

"For all the undelivered postal ballots, it is the responsibility of the army to ascertain the reasons," said a top official of the election commission here.

"Before the counting of votes takes place, the election commission must tell the reasons behind the undelivered postal ballots which are around 25985," said Satish Lakhera, state BJP spokesman.

This time, over 1.19 lakh people, including one lakh army personnel, are casting their votes through ballot papers, a process which would continue till 8 AM of March 6 when the counting of votes takes place.

Experts said the postal ballots could play a crucial role in as many as 20 constituencies out of the total 70 in the hill state where the elections are fought on the wafer-thin margins.

The polling was held on January 30. Since the time period between the polling and the counting is very long, the election commission is expecting the polling percentage of the postal ballots to be heavy.

Early this week, Chief Minister B C Khanduri had also asked the election commission to order a probe into the undelivered postal ballots, which he claimed are around 50 per cent.

Meanwhile, Congress has slammed the BJP for taking up the postal ballot issue claiming that it shows that the ruling party`s anxiety on the poll outcome. "The BJP knows that it has already lost the race. So it is enacting the drama to distract the people`s attention from real issues," said Surendra Kumar, a state Congress spokesman.

In the past, Congress had alleged that postal ballots had marred the chances of their candidates including that of senior Congress leader Satpal Maharaj in the 2008 Pauri Lok Sabha by-election.

Political observers believe that the contest in at least 10 to 15 seats is going to be very close between the main parties like Congress and BJP. Since rebels are also playing spoilsports for party candidates, the contest is arising more curiosity.

BJP in this election has projected Khanduri as its next chief minister, who is a retired major general of the army to take advantage of the ballots of the army personnel.