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Demand for ballot papers: BJP isolated on EVM issue in Election Commission meeting

15 parties demand revert backs to ballot paper system

By Abdul Bari Masoud, MuslimMirror.com,

New Delhi: Except ruling BJP and other three parties including BJD, 15 major national and regional political parties on Monday urged the Election Commission of India (ECI) to revert back to ballot paper in place of EVMs in elections and opposed the BJP’s proposal of holding simultaneous polls at an all-party meeting convened by it. On the three major issues of EVM, the BJP found itself in isolation and even its oldest ally Shiv Sena also did not support the BJP. The meeting also discussed state funding.

The ECI has invited all the recognised national and state parties to discuss the fidelity of electoral rolls, election expenditure regulation and inclusion of print media in the election campaign silence period and EVMs etc.

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Chief Election Commissioner A.K Rawat assured that all the issues raised by the political parties will be addressed by the Commission which has been under criticism from the opposition for allegedly favouring the ruling party.

Talking to media-persons after the meeting, Rawat said the Commission would take a call on all the issues raised by parties including on EVMs and ballot paper, integrity of electoral rolls and ceiling on expenditure by political parties.

He assured that “there will be a satisfactory solution to the issues.”

Congress leader Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who was part of the Congress delegtion, said the basic takeaway of the meeting is that the BJP and some of the few other parties of the NDA were left standing alone in complete solitary exclusion and exception before the Election Commission meeting today.

He said the parties overwhelming (70 percent) have supported a reversion to paper ballot. It was four parties Vs 15 parties as the NCP was there, BSP was there, SP was there, AAP was there, JD (S) was there, two major Left Blocks were there, CPI and CPI (M), major elements of the Left like Forward Block were there, he added.

National parties like, the Congress, CPI(M), CPI, BSP, TMC and regional parties DMK, SP, RJD, and others expressed reservations over the use of EVMs. They demanded that the ECI should use ballot papers instead of EVMs in the coming general elections as they were not satisfied with these voting machines which were abandoned by the western nations. However, the BJP and BJD insisted said they were satisfied with the EVMS.

Congress leader Mukul Wasnik said his party supported “the demand of using ballot paper in the election in the present situation as malfunctioning” of EVMs was a major issue.

“VVPATs were introduced but are not being cross-checked. We demanded that at least 30 per cent of the votes should be cross-checked,” he added.

Echoing Congress party’s views, BSP leader and MP Satish Misra said “EVMs can be hacked”. He said almost every party, except one, had made the demand and the world had gone back to the ballot paper.

Aam Adami Party (AAP) which has been dead against the EVMs also backed the demand. AAP’s Raghav Chadha said EVMs can be easily hacked and there were incidents where these machines have created trouble during elections.

CPI’s Atul Kumar Anjan said there was a need to put an end to electronic voting system as many people in this country have sugar and eyesight related problems.

“Within eight seconds they cannot see to whom they have voted. There are lots of troubles with these electronic machines. Few people run the elections with money that is not politics,” Anjan pointed out.

TMC leader Kalyan Banerjee said there was time to implement voting through ballot paper before the general elections in 2019.

While the AIADMK leader M. Thambidurai said it was fine both with EVMs and ballot paper.

“We would ideally like the EC to lay down as to what percentage of the VVPAT paper trail they are going to count. Once that is done, I believe everyone should be reasonably satisfied, “said BJD leader Pinaki Mishra.

The CPI-M said there should be more safeguards in the present process of voting. The AAP said either the count to verify electronic voting machine (EVM) results with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) should be increased or there should be a return to ballot paper.

On state funding, political parties expressed grave concern over the growing influence of corporate funding and corruption in election process.

CPI (M) leader Nilotpal Basu said they mainly raised the question of funding of elections because this was the issue agitating the minds of electorate.

Corporate funding has been promoted in such a big way, he added.

TMC leader Banerjee said they were demanding state funding of elections to check corruption and a ceiling limit on expenditure by a candidate.

On the bogus voter list as found in Rajasthan, opposition partied said more transparency was required in the voters list as a number of cases had surfaced in the recent past where lakhs and lakhs of bogus voters were found. “These bogus voters affect the entire electoral process.”

Countering the opposition’s allegations, BJP leader and union Health and family welfare minister J.P. Nadda said the Election Commission’s efforts to match EVM results with VVPAT was a good move.

“We should think ahead. The Election Commission has properly replied to all questions raised about the EVMs and we should look forward. (Using) VVPAT is a good move and it should be taken forward,” he said.

“We are ready to face anything. At the same time, we suggested there should not be any malpractice, any doubt regarding EVM machines during the elections.” He said state funding was the only answer to stop election malpractices.

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