A BJP supporter with his bike decked up with flags and streamers campaigns for party candidate Ram Tahal Choudhary on HB Road in Ranchi on Tuesday. (Prashant Mitra)
The Election Commission is pulling out all the stops to ensure a high voting percentage in Ranchi.
Postal ballots, which enable the men in olive to exercise their franchise from their respective deployment stations, have been sent to 1,414 service voters registered on electoral rolls for the hot seat.
An official of the postal ballot cell of the district said formalities had been completed on March 31 and service voters were expected to return the papers by May 16.
Ranchi goes to polls on April 17 with 28 candidates in the fray.
“Besides casting their vote by stamp for a candidate of their choice, servicemen are expected to attach a declaration saying they had themselves exercised their franchise. The declaration needs to be attested by their officer,” the ballot cell official said.
Service voters include members of the armed forces and all others covered under various provisions and conditions of the Army Act 1950. “Not just personnel deployed outside the state, but even those serving the Government of India outside the country are able to vote through this system,” the official maintained.
District electoral officer and deputy commissioner Vinay Kumar Choubey confirmed the exercise, saying that ballots of service voters needed to reach the counting centre by 8am on May 16. “According to rules, postal ballots must be counted first and then electronic voting machines should be opened,” Choubey said.
Chief of the postal ballot cell and district welfare officer Niraj Kumari said names of service voters appeared at the end of electoral rolls. “On that basis, we print postal ballots. Since no serviceman from Ranchi parliamentary constituency is posted outside the country, we haven’t had to send any postal ballot overseas,” she added.
She further informed that besides servicemen, those deputed on election duty would also be provided with postal ballots, but could not give an exact figure for such government officials working outside the parliamentary seat.
Retired IAF officer Aniruddha Singh, who now runs a security agency, however, expressed scepticism over the procedure.
“People away from their hometown rarely exercise their franchise because they doubt the postal system and fear their ballots won’t reach the counting centre on time,” he said.