Postal ballots air govt employees’ ire against NDA over OPS

| | Lucknow
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Postal ballots air govt employees’ ire against NDA over OPS

Friday, 14 June 2024 | Biswajeet Banerjee | Lucknow

In a significant show of discontent, government employees in Uttar Pradesh have voiced their dissatisfaction with the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government through their postal ballot votes in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections.

Out of the 2,36,508 votes cast via postal ballots, the NDA secured 40.75 per cent, while the opposition alliance garnered 45.41 per cent, giving them a notable edge. The NDA failed to reach the 1,00,000 votes mark and received fewer votes than the opposition in 45 out of 80 constituencies.

The primary cause of discontent among UP’s 1.6 million government employees is the unresolved issue of the Old Pension Scheme (OPS). The BJP’s failure to address the OPS issue has significantly impacted its support in the state.

Government employees have been consistently agitating for the reinstatement of the OPS. The Central government’s reluctance to revert to the old system, opting instead to form a committee to improve the National Pension System (NPS), has only heightened their frustration, leading to votes against the NDA.

“The government employees are demanding the restoration of the Old Pension Scheme in UP. Various state governments, including Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, have reverted to the OPS following poll assurances. In UP, different employees’ unions are demanding the restoration of the OPS. The employees expressed their anger through the postal ballot in this election,” said Ram Karan Singh, an office-bearer of the UP Secretariat Employees’ Union.

Postal ballots, used by the government employees, also included votes from disabled individuals and elderly people above 85 years. Akbarpur recorded the highest number of postal ballot votes at 7,135, followed by 5,572 in Azamgarh, 5,448 in Basti, 5,354 in Ballia and Kanpur, 5,246 in Fatehpur Sikri, and 5,145 in Baghpat. The Samajwadi Party won the Akbarpur Lok Sabha seat, where its candidate Lalji Verma defeated Ritesh Pandey of the BJP. In this constituency, the SP received 145 more postal votes than the BJP. In Hardoi, despite BJP winning the seat, the SP candidate received more postal ballot votes (1,389) compared to the BJP candidate (1,053).

In several constituencies where the BJP won, it still trailed in postal ballot counts. These constituencies include Gorakhpur, Bhadohi, Shahjahanpur, Misrikh, Hardoi, Bansgaon, Bareilly, Phulpur, Pilibhit, Deoria, Domariyaganj, Jhansi, Gonda, Kushinagar, Kanpur and Unnao.

Conversely, the INDIA bloc lagged behind the NDA in postal ballot count in 13 of the seats they won. According to the Election Commission of India’s data, the SP-Congress alliance received fewer postal ballot votes than the BJP in 13 out of the 43 seats they won. For instance, in Hamirpur, the BJP received 681 postal ballot votes compared to SP’s 680, a difference of just one vote. Other seats where the SP-Congress had fewer postal ballot votes include Etawah, Kairana, Kaushambi, Jalaun, Fatehpur, Budaun, Moradabad, Mohanlalganj, Rampur, Sambhal, Saharanpur and Hamirpur.

In Nagina, Chandrashekhar, who won the seat, received 740 postal ballot votes, while the BJP secured 1,328. The Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party received 270 and seven votes, respectively.

The All Teachers Employees’ Welfare Association (ATEWA) had actively campaigned for the restoration of the Old Pension Scheme prior to the elections. This campaign, dubbed ‘Vote for OPS’, significantly influenced the election outcomes.

Abhinav Singh Rajput, national secretary of the National Movement for Old Pension Scheme (NMOPS), stated that employees were more inclined to vote for parties that promised to restore the OPS.

“If all teachers and employees had voted via postal ballot, the INDIA bloc would have shown even better results,” he said.

Sudhir Gangwar, district president of the UP Secondary Teachers’ Association (Ekta), emphasised the widespread demand for the restoration of the Old Pension Scheme across all districts, as evidenced by the postal ballot results. He urged the government to prioritise implementation of the OPS.

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