‘Ink controversy’ prompts Election Commission to suggest alternatives

A working group set up by the Election Commission has recommended several steps, including the introduction of a special pen to avoid such disputes


A file photo of the Election Commission. Photo: Mint
A file photo of the Election Commission. Photo: Mint

New Delhi: More than two months after an ‘ink controversy’ muddied the Rajya Sabha (RS) elections in Haryana, a working group set up by Election Commission (EC) has recommended several steps, including the introduction of a special pen to avoid such disputes.

In RS polling, the election commission mandates that all votes should be cast using a violet pen, for the sake of uniformity. In June, 12 votes during the RS polls in Haryana were marked using a wrong pen and were declared invalid. Interestingly, all the 12 votes were of Congress legislators who owed allegiance to former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and eventually led to the defeat of party-backed independent candidate and lawyer R.K. Anand. The development sparked a political furore and the Congress alleged that the pen was ‘replaced’.

The EC heard all sides of the arguments and set up a working group to look into it. The group, according to a news report by the Press Trust of India quoting officials, has now said that a special pen bearing either the signature of the returning officer or ‘Election Commission of India’ inscribed on it could be used to cast votes.

It has also suggested that the pen, which could either be a special sketch pen or a felt pen, should be given to voters outside the polling booth and taken back after the vote is cast. Another recommendation is that there should be two observers for RS polls instead of one and that the pen should be sealed like ballot papers after the polling is over.

“These are some of the suggestions which have been given. We are looking into them. But these or any other suggestion cannot be implemented unless rules for the RS election are amended and for that, the law ministry will have to be approached. There needs to be a long-term solution and we are working towards it,” a senior EC official said, requesting anonymity.

The ink controversy put the focus back not just on the loophole in the election process but also in the internal feuds within the Congress party. Party members wondered whether Hooda had turned a rebel or not. While a section of party leaders felt he was “too loyal” to engineer a mutiny like this, the other section felt Hooda was trying to send out a message to the top leadership about his importance in state affairs.

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