Even as the NCP has upped the ante for the upcoming Assembly elections, party chief Sharad Pawar and his nephew Ajit Pawar have continued to spar over use of electronic voting machines (EVMs). While Sharad Pawar expressed doubts over EVMs, Ajit, NCP’s legislative party leader, had maintained that EVMs were not responsible for the party’s poor performance in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections.
Projecting a united face, party leaders have maintained that both leaders hold different views over the issue and not much should be read into it.
On Monday, as the NCP celebrated its 20th anniversary, Sharad Pawar told party workers that he would discuss the issue with Opposition parties in Delhi in the presence of experts and technocrats. “We need to find out what exactly happens after a voter presses the button against the name of a party candidate of his choice and if it gets reflected on the VVPAT,” he said.
Raising doubts about the machine, the NCP chief said: “In a polling booth, there sits an officer who has a machine before him… When you press the button on an EVM, it gets reflected on VVPAT and from there it is transferred to that machine. Votes are counted from that machine. Now do you have any idea what is transferred there? The problem lies there. We need to find out what happens at this stage.”
Ajit Pawar, who addressed the gathering minutes later, said it was time to look forward. “Let’s not waste our time thinking much about what happened during the general elections. We should focus our energies on winning large number of seats in the state assembly elections,” he said.
Earlier, a couple of days after the counting of votes for Lok Sabha elections, Sharad Pawar had expressed suspicion that EVMs might have been manipulated. At that time, Ajit had maintained that if EVMs had been manipulated, then Congress would not have won Assembly elections in three states — Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh — held a few months earlier.
In a retort, Sharad Pawar, had claimed that the BJP probably had allowed the Congress to win these three elections so that no one could raise doubts over EVMs during the general elections.
While Sharad Pawar has received support from leaders, like Dhananjay Munde, party’s spokesperson Nawab Malik told The Indian Express that both leaders have their own views and have expressed them. “Nothing much should be read into it,” he said, while ruling out talks of internal bickering.
On Tuesday, Malik said the NCP chief had raised the EVM issue again as even some experts had expressed doubts over EVM functioning. “Our party chief has decided to take up the issue with the Opposition parties.”
State BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari, meanwhile, said if doubts were being raised over EVMs, then NCP’s victory in Baramati should also come under cloud. “EVMs cannot be manipulated. It is impossible. This is the conclusion given by experts from across the world,” he said.
Taking a dig at Sharad Pawar, he said that the NCP chief was finding an excuse for his party’s worst performance. “He is blaming EVMs for the party’s defeat in the Lok Sabha elections.” Bhandari said the contradictory opinions of Sharad and Ajit indicated there are internal problems in the NCP.