Ministry directs SECs to ensure facility at the earliest

Cast your vote online in municipal elections, no matter which part of the globe you are in, is the government's message. Online voting has also caught the fancy of Norway, which has failed to come up with a well-tested system.

The Panchayati Raj Ministry has directed the State Election Commissions (SECs) to allow this facility at the earliest in a bid to encourage lax urban voters to exercise their franchise.

The State governments have accepted the proposal and the system will be in place as and when the urban local body elections are held in their States.

The pilot project in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, proved successful. Under the system, voters who have registered online will have a separate ID with a password. They will be recognised by their mobile phone numbers and told of their time of voting through an SMS.

Each voter will be allotted just two minutes to cast his/her vote once the ballot paper pops up on the screen for the ward where the voter is enrolled.

The time control is to avoid a mass attempt at electors casting their votes at one and the same time. For, multiple hits could jam the website.

However, this system is unlikely to be followed in panchayat elections given the profile of the electorate who are not expected to have a computer of their own or easy access to computer kiosks.

Norwegian Minister for Local government and Regional Development Liv Signe Navarsete, now on a visit to India, on Friday expressed interest in the system developed as also in the autonomous bodies set up in the States to conduct elections to local bodies.

Ms. Navarsete, who met Panchayati Raj Minister Krishna Chandra Deo, said the system of local governance in her country would complete 150 years this year but it did not have an independent institution to conduct the elections. While the National Assembly decided the dates, the elections were conducted by her ministry.

As part of poll reforms, the Centre has proposed that henceforth the SECs decide the date of elections of local bodies, and not the States as is the case in some instances. But this decision has to be taken by the State government to empower its Election Commission.

In another decision, the Centre has said officials debarred from election work by the Election Commission of India will have to be kept off the local bodies elections also. In one case, the Odisha government challenged the action of the SEC before the Orissa High Court, which upheld the directive and kept the official concerned away from election duty.

The reforms include check on movement of money and curbing paid news. Mr. Deo will hold a meeting of State ministers on February 27 for ushering in further reforms.

More In: National | News