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MC Explains: The fascinating air travel of Mr Ballot Box for presidential polls

Who is Mr Ballot Box ? The Election Commission has booked passenger tickets on airlines to send containers of election material to different states for use on polling day and bringing them back.

July 14, 2022 / 09:03 AM IST
CEC Rajiv Kumar along with EC Anup Chandra Pandey supervising the distribution and dispatch of Ballot Box and other poll related materials for Presidential Election 2022 to AROs from States /UTs at Nirvachan Sadan on July 12

CEC Rajiv Kumar along with EC Anup Chandra Pandey supervising the distribution and dispatch of Ballot Box and other poll related materials for Presidential Election 2022 to AROs from States /UTs at Nirvachan Sadan on July 12

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has started dispatching and distributing election material to the Assembly secretariats of states and Union territories for the conduct of the presidential election on July 18.

The material includes ballot boxes and papers, special pens and other sealed material for use in the election in which members of the legislative assembly from around the country are eligible to vote.

READ |Explained: How is the President of India elected?

The process also involves what the poll panel calls a fascinating journey by air to the states and Union territories. The Commission has, for this purpose, booked passenger tickets for ‘Mr Ballot Box’ on airlines to send the containers of election material to different states for use on polling day and bring them back.

But what is ‘Mr Ballot Box’ and what is its significance in Presidential elections. Here is a primer:

Passenger ‘Mr Ballot Box’

This two-day exercise of dispatching and distributing election material is being supervised by Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar and Election Commissioner Anup Chandra Pandey, the poll panel said.

 

MC explains logo

The President of India is elected by an electoral college consisting of members of parliament (MPs) from the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha and members of legislative assemblies (MLAs) in states and Union territories. So all MPs and MLAs part of the electoral college.

During the transportation of the election material, the ballot boxes fly on a separate air ticket in the name of ‘Mr Ballot Box’ as a passenger in the front row of aircraft. The box occupies the seat beside that of the officer transporting the material under personal supervision. One such ‘Mr Ballot Box’ took the Vistara flight from Delhi to Chandigarh at 5:10 pm on July 12.

Two-way travel

The steel ballot boxes are carried in a wooden box. The boxes are meant only for use in the Presidential election and remain in the custody of the Commission. While 14 ballot boxes were dispatched on July 12, another 16 will be sent on July 13. Not all ballot boxes will travel by air. Boxes headed to some states, such as Himachal Pradesh, will travel by road.

After 'Mr Ballot Box' lands at its destination, it will be stored in previously sanitised and sealed strong rooms under video surveillance in each state and Union territory. And once the polling are over, the sealed 'Mr Ballot Box' and other election material will be transported back to the Office of Returning Officer, Rajya Sabha Secretariat, by the next available flight.

A copy of an air ticket for 'Mr Ballot Box' shared by Election Commission A copy of an air ticket for 'Mr Ballot Box' shared by Election Commission

The boxes and other material are carried personally in the aircraft cabins, never out of sight of accompanying officers.

The Election Commission has also appointed 37 observers for overseeing the arrangements of polling and counting during elections.

 53-year-old tradition

Transporting ballot boxes as passengers is a 53-year-old tradition. The poll panel had acquired this special right in 1969 from the civil aviation department.

Also, read : Choosing Draupadi Murmu as its presidential candidate is a masterstroke by the BJP

While the election for the next President of India will be held on July 18, the counting of votes will take place on July 21, ahead of the end of President Ram Nath Kovind's term on July 24.

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance's (NDA) presidential candidate Draupadi Murmu has a numerical edge over the Opposition’s joint candidate Yashwant Sinha, especially after Murmu received support from the Biju Janata Dal and other regional parties that are not part of the NDA.
Gulam Jeelani is a journalist with over 12 years of reporting experience. Based in New Delhi, he covers politics and governance for Moneycontrol.