Why is Telangana’s Nizamabad going back to paper ballots? To fit its whopping 185 candidates

With as many as 185 candidates contesting the Lok Sabha election from Nizamabad next month, voters in the constituency will likely use paper ballots to cast their votes. That’s because Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) can only process up to 64 candidates.

After the deadline to withdrawal nominations lapsed on March 28, Telangana Chief Electoral Officer Rajnath Kumar said 185 candidates will compete for a seat in the Nizamabad constituency.

EVMs do not allow for more than 64 candidates in the system. But the Election Commission of India (EC) is yet to make an official recommendation on the use of paper ballots in Nizamabad.

Kumar also said extra arrangements will be needed if paper ballots are used.

“In Nizamabad, we have to go (conduct polls) by ballot paper. We will refer this to the EC to take approval on the kind of ballot paper we will use. Symbols have to be allotted. EC will give guidelines for the design of ballot paper, and we will print it,” Kumar said.

The EC will also need to conduct voter awareness workshops.

Of the 185 candidates, 178 are farmers, standing for election because the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) has not met their demands.

Farmers join the Nizamabad fray

Telangana farmers have been protesting for their demands for the last two months. They even set up a union.

They said the police have thwarted their attempts to protest peacefully on a number of occasions. Law enforcement has denied them permission to hold rallies under Section 144, which prohibits gathering of five or more people.

Now, they have taken to the Lok Sabha race to agitate for their demands of a minimum support price (MSP) for turmeric and red jowar.

An MSP is the price at which the government purchases crops from farmers. A high and fair MSP ensures that farmers are financially secure and free from debt. It also helps to keep crop prices in the market stable.

Telangana farmers are demanding an MSP of Rs. 15,000 per 100 kilograms of turmeric and Rs. 3,500 for every 100 kilograms of red jowar.

They also want the government to establish a Turmeric Board that will keep crop prices fair and stable and cut out middlemen who charge exorbitant commissions.

TRS President Kalvakuntla Kavitha, who is also Chief Minister Chandrashekar Rao’s daughter, is standing for election in Nizamabad along with the farmers.

She believes that she has worked hard to set up the board and that the TRS is the only government to care for the state’s farmers.

“I have introduced private member Bill (in Parliament). No government cared for turmeric farmers. Only the TRS government cared for turmeric farmers… Prime Minister Narendra Modi never cared for them,” she said.

She added that the TRS has given subsidies worth Rs 2 lakh on boilers that cost Rs 4 lakh.

However, she dismissed the allegation of police denying farmers the right to protest; she called it a “BJP-Congress conspiracy” to reduce her chances of re-election.

More support for minorities

There is an increasing number of parties and candidates dedicated to supporting the minority voice in India.

Recently, former Indian Administrative Officer Shah Faesal established the Jammu and Kashmir’s People’s Movement (JKPM) that seeks to serve the Kashmiri people.

Former vice-president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Shehla Rashid has joined the JKPM and encouraged young people, students, and women to join the party and voice their demands.

Former president of the JNU Student Union Kanhaiya Kumar has come out in support of the JKPM.

Kumar himself is competing in the Lok Sabha elections this year as a Communist Party of India candidate from Begusarai, Bihar. He is committed to secularism and inclusivity.

All 17 constituencies in Telangana will vote in the first phase of the elections on April 11.

Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius

Elections 2019Lok Sabha Elections 2019