All parties in the Opposition rank are planning to undertake a statewide signature campaign and hold a protest march on August 21 to demand a switch from electronic voting machines (EVMs) used in elections to the ballot paper system.
MNS chief Raj Thackeray, along with leaders from various Opposition parties, on Friday announced a statewide agitation. Among the other prominent leaders who attended the gathering on Friday, included state Congress president Balasaheb Thorat, senior NCP leaders Ajit Pawar and Chhagan Bhujbal, PWP’s Jayant Patil and Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana leader Raju Shetti.
“When I met the Election Commission, I asked where are these EVMs made. The EC told me that the chips of the EVMs are made in Japan, US and the Netherlands. None of these countries use EVMs during their elections. My questions is then why are they being used only in India,” said Thackeray, who was instrumental in getting the Opposition leaders united on a stage.
Thackeray said a statewide signature campaign will be undertaken in which people will be asked to sign a letter endorsing the demand of holding elections through ballot paper. He said the signed letters from across the state will be presented to the Election Commission after the joint protest march, which will be held in Mumbai on August 21.
”Over the last few days, many social organisations have sought a ban on EVMs. Many developed nations don’t use EVMs. This is not a demand of any individual political party, but the wish of the general public that the elections should be held through ballot paper. We have come together to ensure that the wish of the people is accepted,” said Ajit Pawar.
”When people have doubts in their minds, it is the responsibility of the Election Commission and also the government to clear those doubts,” said Thorat.
The BJP, meanwhile, was quick to respond to the gathering, saying the protest against EVMs was akin to disrespecting the mandate of the people. State School Education Minister Ashish Shelar also took a swipe at the MNS chief. “In the press conference there were certain leaders who spoke against EVMs. These are the same people who have never contested elections. Such people should first fight elections and then complain against EVMs. Also, when they win they don’t have complains, but when they lose they blame the EVMs,” Shelar said.
Thackeray has personally never fought elections in the state.