The Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Congress, among other opposition parties, on Wednesday called for introduction of voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines amid allegations of manipulation of electronic voting machines (EVMs). The government dismissed the allegations, calling them an insult to voters during a debate on electoral reforms in Rajya Sabha.
Members from the CPI(M), CPI, Trinamool Congress, Janata Dal (United), Nationalist Congress Party and YSR Congress Party backed the demand. Opposition members referred to a report in The Indian Express on the Election Commission’s (EC)’s letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi four months ago seeking urgent funds for VVPAT machines before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
They questioned why the government had not acted despite EC’s 10 reminders since June 2014 and wanted a Parliamentary committee to examine the issue of EVM “anomalies”.
Trinamool Congress’s Mukul Roy asked the EC to take appropriate care to assure people that EVMs are not a hindrance to true reflection of their will and that they cannot be tampered while initiating the discussion.
Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad dared the BJP to go for fresh polls in Uttar Pradesh while seeking use of VVPAT in upcoming elections in Gujarat. He pointed out that developed countries like the UK, Germany and Italy had discontinued the use of EVMs. He asked the government to come clean on its inability to accept EC’s demand for VVPATs. “Somewhere EVMs have come under doubt,” he said while citing doubts expressed after the recent state polls. Azad attacked the BJP for allegedly using around 80 choppers and small planes for campaigning in Uttar Pradesh. He demanded that the expenditure of political parties should be audited and placed before Parliament.
BJP lawmaker Bhupender Yadav called for simultaneous Lok Sabha and assembly elections. CPM leader Sitaram Yechury opposed the idea calling it an attempt for “backdoor entry” of Presidential form of government. He dismissed the government’s decision to issue electoral bonds as an “eyewash”. Yechury demanded a ban on corporate funding to political parties and creation of a state fund for polls.
SP MP Ramgopal Yadav insisted that his party’s candidates had won in regions where VVPAT-equipped EVMs were used. He added that the party led in ballot paper counts while alleging that cash was paid to garner votes during Uttar Pradesh elections.
BSP’s Satish Chandra Mishra called Uttar Pradesh elections “bogus” and alleged a “fraud” was committed. He dared the BJP to go for polls again with ballot papers and see the difference. Mishra accused the BJP of “hiring hacks” for the polls. He said the BJP does need not go to any mutt but start worshipping the machines (EVM). He argued that BJP seats came down from 21 to 13 in Goa, where VVPAT machines were used. Minister Giriraj Singh called Mishra’s allegations an insult to voters.
Opposition leaders pointed out that BJP leaders like L K Advani, Subramanian Swamy and GVL Narsimha Rao, have also raised doubts over EVMs earlier.
VVPAT in MP bypolls on April 9
The Election Commission has decided to use Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines for the first time in by-elections to two Assembly constituencies in Madhya Pradesh. Votes for the bypolls in Ater and Bandhavgarh will be cast on April 9. VVPAT machines were used in some Assembly segments in the recent elections in Punjab and UP.