HUNDREDS participated in a footmarch organised by several candidates from various political parties, who lost in the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) polls, blaming their loss on Electronic Voting Machines. The foot march, described by the organisers as a ‘funeral procession of EVMs’, started from Balgandharva Chowk and ended at the Vaikunth Crematorium in Navi Peth, where the participants carried out a symbolic cremation of props representing EVMs.
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The participants carried posters and hand-held hoardings, alleging that the elections were rigged. A public meeting was also held in Sambhaji Garden at J M Road.
Soon after the results were declared on February 23 — in which the BJP got a full majority — defeated candidates from various parties including the NCP, Congress, Shiv Sena and MNS started to blame their loss on the EVMs. They also held a meeting to plan on Sunday to plan the next course of action, where some bigwigs such as NCP’s Nilesh Nikam, who lost from University-Wakadewadi (Panel 7), Congress’s Datta Bahirat, who lost from panel 14, and NCP leader Balasaheb Bodake, as well as RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar, were present.
They alleged that the EVMs were “tampered with”, resulting in their loss from the “seats from where they had been winning for decades.”
“Hundreds of voters have come out to support us because they feel that they have been cheated. They did not vote for the BJP and the party has managed to come to power by fraud. That’s why we have decided to approach the High Court with a petition to investigate the allegations,” Bahirat said, claiming that he had enough evidence to prove that the EVMs were tampered with.
Bodake said in many booths and panels, the actual number of voters who voted on election day, as announced at the end of polling day, and the final sum of votes received by various candidates and NOTA does not tally.
“There are dozens of polling booths where the numbers don’t tally and the election officers don’t have any explanation for it. Also, in my own panel, the residents of Wadarwadi has boycotted the BJP and had declared that they won’t cast a single vote for BJP candidates. There, BJP candidates have got 3,000-4000 votes. That’s why voters have come out to support us in this morcha,” said Bodake.
The candidates now plan to approach the Bombay High Court, demanding an inquiry into what they alleged was “poll rigging carried out by the ruling BJP”.
“A petition on behalf of 200 candidates who contested the polls and believe that the EVMs were rigged will approach the HC seeking relief,” said Rupali Patil, a former MNS corporator who lost to a BJP candidate.
“We have been working in these wards for many years and are aware about the mood of the public. We challenge the government to carry out a repoll in some areas on ballot paper and you will see the real results. It’s a murder of democracy,” said Patil.
These candidates were also supported by independent activists like Vijay Kumbhar of Surajya Sangharsha Samiti, who argued that the Election Commission did not make arrangements for identifiable paper audit trail (VIPAT), despite having a provision for it.
“In VIPAT system, a voter can verify if the votes registered by the machine are the same as chosen by him or her. The EC should take cognizance and make the voting system more transparent,” said Kumbhar.
These allegations, however, have been denied by the State Election Commission.
When queried about the allegations, State Election Commissioner J S Saharia told mediapersons, “It’s not new for losing candidates to allege that EVM machines were tampered with. However, despite dozens of elections that have been conducted using them, no evidence of rigging has been found. These are tamper-proof machines” .