At Mamata Banerjee's massive show of opposition strength in Kolkata ahead of the upcoming national election, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah insisted on the return of the ballot paper for a fair selection process. Calling the electronic voting machine (EVM) a "thief", the National Conference leader said no country in the world uses this machine.
"EVM is a chor machine. We should meet the Election Commission of India and the President to urge them to stop the use of EVMs," Mr Abdullah said at the "United India Rally" organised by the Trinamool Congress chief at Kolkata's Brigade Parade Ground.
Most opposition parties have demanded that paper ballots be brought back in the next Lok Sabha elections alleging that the EVMs can be tampered with.
Rumours of EVM tampering began after a string of BJP victories in assembly elections, especially the party's sweep in Uttar Pradesh in 2017, prompting Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati and others to demand use of paper ballots.
However, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora claimed that Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) were being treated like a "football" by parties suffering electoral losses, and said the voting equipment was foolproof as far as fears of manipulation were concerned.
His predecessor OP Rawat had also used the same line that political parties only question the EVMs when they lose elections.
"Generally, this has been the trend. When they win, they don't give credit to EVMs, but when they lose they all blame the EVMs," Mr Rawat said.
The Election Commission has rejected the idea of going back to ballot boxes saying it makes "no sense", and voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) units are enough to put all such doubts to rest.
"The Lok Sabha polls would see the use of these on a still larger scale. The Election Commission is committed to holding the elections in a free and fair manner," Mr Arora said.
The BJP said opposition parties are blaming EVMs only to hide their insecurities.
The senior politician also blamed the BJP for the current situation in Jammu and Kashmir. "They have given us only pain in the last four and a half years. This government must go and let's hope that the new government creates a new Hindustan," he said.
Mr Abdullah accused the BJP of "dividing people on the basis of religion".
"People are being branded as Pakistanis. But all people -- right from Ladakh to elsewhere -- want to be part of India. I am a Muslim and I love India, my country," he said.
Continuing his attack on the BJP, he said it stood for the Triple Talaq Bill in Parliament but didn't do anything for the women of the country.
Urging for a united fight by opposition parties in the coming Lok Sabha election, he said the prime minister can be decided after the poll results.
"We have to fight and oust BJP. We have to come together to put up a one-to-one fight against it. We should fight together to strengthen our country," he said.
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