Nepal's plan to purchase Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) from India for the Constituent Assembly polls in November has hit a road block after the Indian side made it clear that the EVMs were not equipped to cater to such a large number of contesting parties.
Indian EVMs can handle a maximum of 64 candidates (or parties) -- so far, 139 parties have registered with the Nepal Election Commission to contest the November polls, thus making it difficult to use the machines from India.
"A control unit, a kind of software, already installed in Indian EVMs, handles a maximum of 64 buttons for different political parties, so we cannot use the EVMs developed and used in India," Nepal's Chief Election Commissioner, Nil Kantha Uprety told IANS.
"The number of aspirant parties may go up even further, as there is still a window to register the party at the Commission. So we have abandoned the move to purchase EVMs from India," he said.
"Although they (Indians) have developed an advanced version of EVMs that have a maximum of 384 buttons, they have not tested it or used them so far. This time, we are not going to use EVMs in elections," said Uprety.
"It will take months to test, upgrade and make reliable use of the new breed of Indian EVMs so we could not assure the Nepali side that we will deliver the EVMs this time around," said a Kathmandu-based Indian diplomat.
Uprety had visited India mid-June to discuss the matter of EVMs and other possible logistics support with his Indian counterpart V.S. Sampath. The Indian side had said that they would tell the Nepali side by June-end about whether or not EVMs could be supplied.
During the latest 2008 elections, as a pilot project, Nepal had used EMVs in one constituency and later, in a 2009 by-election, Nepal's Election Commission used EVMs in six constituencies successfully. But then, in the 2008 elections, only 54 parties had contested.
This time, Nepal's Election Commission was planning to use 20,000 EVMs in 119 out of 250 constituencies in the November elections, and had sought Indian Rs.1 billion from the government of Nepal to purchase them from India, after India declined to donate EVMs to Nepal.
As a grant, India on Tuesday donated 764 different types of vehicles to Nepal for poll use, costing approximately Indian Rs.500 million (Nepal Rs.800 million).