Uttarakhand postal ballots become a bone of contention

: : As the day of counting (Mar 6) for the Uttarakhand vidhan sabha elections draws close, the issue of ballot boxes is becoming a bone of contention for the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress.

While the Congress incharge for Uttarakhand, Birender Singh held a meeting of party candidates during the vidhan sabha election in Delhi recently to ensure that there was no discrepancy in postal ballots during counting, chief minister B C Khanduri pickedup cudgels on the fact that of the 1.19 lakh postal ballots in the state, only 47,290 had been accounted for.

His contention was that as of date only 22,729 postal ballots hade been received by the returning officers, whereas 24,511 had come back undelivered. Smelling a rat in this, he alleged that the postal ballots had been deliberately not delivered, at the behestof the UPA government at the centre, on the plea of incomplete address.

Alleging that the postal department and the ministry of defence could be jointly responsible for not delivering the postal ballots to the defence personnel posted in various parts of the country, he apprehended rears that almost 50 per cent of the postal ballots may be returned undelivered and servicemen deprived of practicing their franchise.

It may be mentioned here that postal ballots which reach the returning officer by 8 am on the counting day, will be included in the count. Their importance was last seen in the 2008 by-election from the Pauri Lok Sabha seat when the BJP candidate Lt Gen TPS Rawat (retd) got the better of his Congress rival Satpal Maharaj due to the postal ballots.

Satpal Maharaj had taken a lead in the counting of the general votes. But then came the counting of postal ballots and Maharaj, who was almost sure of a win had to eat the humble pie, as Rawat not only covered the lead, but went ahead to win. And this time as Maj Gen B C Khanduri was portrayed as the face of the BJP during the vidhan elections it is expected that servicemen may vote for the party candidates in large numbers.

Of the undelivered postal ballots, figures of 17 of the 70 assembly segments were available indicate that the number of undelivered postal ballots are more than the undelivered ones. This could have far reaching repercussions for the BJP in atleast 19 assembly segments where their number varies from 2000 to 5500. While earlier there was hope that about 80 per cent postal ballots would reach the returning officers by counting date, it is not being feared that it could be well below 50 per cent.

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