EXACTLY A month after Opposition parties were stunned by the electoral outcome in Uttar Pradesh, as many as 16 parties — including traditional rivals Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Left parties and Trinamool Congress — came together against electronic voting machines (EVMs) on Monday.
Opposition parties approached the Election Commission (EC) and demanded that elections be held using ballot papers until concerns over EVMs are addressed. They told the EC that trust deficit among parties regarding the electronic devices is “too deep-seated and pervasive”.
According to opposition leaders, the EC told them that it would convene an all-party meeting to discuss the issue.
“Till such time the issues of tampering and malfunctioning of EVMs are addressed and tamper-proof and flawless functioning of EVMs is technologically established and endorsed globally, to the satisfaction of the political parties, the forthcoming elections should be conducted under the old paper ballot system,” the parties said in a joint memorandum to the Commission.
Paper ballots are a “permissible mode of balloting accepted worldwide, and the discretion of the Election Commission under Section 61A should be exercised only after all issues, as raised above, are addressed by the Election Commission to the satisfaction of all political parties”, the memorandum stated.
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad led the opposition delegation. It included CPM’s T K Rangarajan, SP’s Naresh Aggrawal, BSP’s Satish Chandra Mishra, Trinamool Congress’s Saugata Roy and Mukul Roy, JD(U)’s Ali Anwar, NCP’s Majeed Memon, CPI’s D Raja and the DMK’s Tiruchi Siva. Congress leaders said 16 parties were part of the initiative; AIADMK and BJD were not part of the delegation.
TMC chief and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, who was in Delhi, met Congress leaders Azad and Ahmed Patel Monday to firm up the Opposition’s position on the EVM issue. She acknowledged the need for a grand alliance against the BJP and said EVMs may be the “first step” towards such issue-based collaboration.
Sources said a joint opposition delegation could meet President Pranab Mukherjee soon to raise the issue of EVM and others such as “subversion of institutions” and “centralisation of authority”.
In Monday’s meeting, the opposition parties drew the EC’s attention to alleged cases of malfunctioning and tampering of EVMs. They said such allegations have raised “bona fide concerns” on the possibility of manipulating election results.