BHOPAL: Madhya Pradesh Congress chief Kamal Nath on Wednesday wrote to the Election Commission (ECI) demanding holding of upcoming assembly bypolls in the state through ballot papers instead of EVMs in view of the COVID-19 crisis.
Byelections are due in 26 constituencies which have fallen vacant following resignations of 24 MLAs of the Congress, and death of two legislators earlier.
The EC is yet to announce the polling schedule. "Kamal Nath on Wednesday wrote a letter to chief election commissioner suggesting that upcoming bypolls be held using ballots, as possibility of spread of infection through EVMs (Electronic Voting Machines) cannot be ruled out," said Congress leader JP Dhanopia, who is in-charge of the party's poll-related affairs.
Earlier, the EC had invited suggestions from political parties about electioneering amidst the COVID-19 crisis. On an average, 1,000 voters cast their votes at every booth. Voters will have to repeatedly press buttons on EVMs.
Citizens and voters can be protected from the infection if the bypolls will be held through ballots, Nath stated. This is the second time that the state Congress has raised this demand in recent past. The opposition party had submitted a memorandum to the election commission demanding conduct of bypolls using ballot papers last month.
The number of COVID-19 cases and fatalities in Madhya Pradesh stood at 24,095 and 756, respectively, as on July 21. In March, 22 Congress MLAs, mostly loyalists of former Union Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia had resigned, reducing the Kamal Nath-led government to a minority.
Following Nath's resignation on March 20, the BJP returned to power with Shivraj Singh Chouhan as the chief minister for the fourth term. Two more MLAs of the Congress resigned in recent past. With the exodus of 24 MLAs, the Congress is left with 90 MLAs in the MP assembly, whose existing strength is 204.
The BJP currently has 107 MLAs. Among others, four are Independents while two belonged to the BSP and another to the SP.