The Madhya Pradesh Election Commission, which is going to conduct local body elections, has switched to arranging alphabetically candidates’ names on the list based on their English spellings, as Hindi alphabets and matras (signs) are purportedly “difficult”.
The decision was taken by the Commission three years ago, on October 28, 2016, when the BJP government of Shivraj Singh Chouhan was in power.
An internal note of the Commission explained that during elections in the past, it observed that certain returning officers had faced “a lot of difficulty” with Hindi in the Devanagari script.
“Since Hindi alphabets are difficult, names of candidates are arranged wrongly alphabetically and they are allocated wrong symbols,” says the note.
“In such a situation, the Commission has to conduct re-elections. This causes unnecessary loss of both time and resources.”
“When the sequence is decided after the completion of the nomination process, it will by arranged in the English alphabetical order on ballots papers,” said Arun Parmar, Upper Secretary at the Commission. “ Matras create a lot of confusion. Therefore the decision.”
According to rule number 38 of the Madhya Pradesh Panchayat Election Rules, 1995, the list shall contain “the names in alphabetical order and the addresses of the contesting candidates as given in the nomination papers and shall be prepared in Hindi in the Devanagari script.” However, the order shall be determined in such a manner as may be prescribed by the Commission.
An official of the Commission, on the condition of anonymity, said everyone perfectly knew the sequence of the English alphabet. “If you have to arrange names in Hindi alphabetically, how would you know which matra comes first?” he said.
“In Madhya Pradesh, the number of contested posts in the local body elections is more than 3 lakh,” said R. Parasuram, former State Election Commissioner, under whom the decision was taken. “While printing of ballot papers and arranging them in alphabetical order in Devanagari, a lot of mistakes had occurred. This was even causing postponement of elections.”
After wide consultation, it was decided that whereas names on the ballot papers would continue to be in Hindi, they would be arranged alphabetically as per English spellings.
As per Article 243K of the Constitution, the superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of the electoral rolls for, and the conduct of, all elections to the panchayats shall be vested in a State Election Commission consisting of a State Election Commissioner to be appointed by the Governor.