OK In Punjab, But Not In States Won By BJP? Congress' Odd Stand On EVMs

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OK In Punjab, But Not In States Won By BJP? Congress' Odd Stand On EVMs

Opposition has alleged that EVMs are being tampered with (File photo)

New Delhi: 

Highlights

  1. Congress leads 13 parties in formal petition against voting machines
  2. Return to ballot papers, voting machines being tampered with: opposition
  3. Election Commission rejects voting machines are being rigged
The Congress, leading a group of 13 major parties, has formally petitioned the powerful Election Commission against using Electronic Voting Machines or EVMs in states which are due to vote soon like Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, while alleging that machines were rigged in recent elections including in Uttar Pradesh.

Senior leaders from the parties, which also included Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress and the Left, told the Commission, which has said that the machines in use cannot be configured for cheating, that "EC (Election Commission) feels EVMs are tamper-proof. Even Pentagon is not fool-proof. We have urged the Commission to revert to paper ballot system till the reliability of EVMs is proven beyond doubt by all stakeholders."

The Congress highlighted the result in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand - both states were landslide victories for the BJP - as problematic because of EVMs, but did not mention any concern about Punjab, the lone state that it has won in recent years. "In recent times, people's faith in electronic voting machines (EVM) have eroded and that's why the Commission should revert back to ballot papers," Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad told reporters after an hour-long meeting with the Commission.

In this installment of parties vs EVMs, the loudest and earliest objections were purveyed by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal after his party placed a distant second in Punjab, despite most exit polls predicting that his Aam Aadmi Party would either win the state or serve as runner-up in a close fight. Mr Kejriwal has demanded that local elections in Delhi, scheduled for the 23rd, be held with ballot papers. However, he was not invited to be a part of yesterday's delegation because he had alleged that the Punjab result was manipulated.

Other parties have rallied together against EVMs after a demonstration in Bhind in Madhya Pradesh appeared to show that no matter which button was pressed (each button is placed against a different candidate), the paper or "receipt" that falls into a box (that is sealed) registered the vote for the BJP.  

The machine had been brought in from Uttar Pradesh, which was swept by the BJP last month. However, the Election Commission said that its inquiry did not reveal a problem with the machine, and the problem lay in the machine not being reformatted ahead of the demo.

Mr Kejriwal has also alleged problems with EVMs in this weekend's by-election for the Lok Sabha seat from Dholpur in Rajasthan. His party has said that EVMs from Rajasthan cannot be used for the municipal election in Delhi later this month. "I am an engineer from IIT and know the difference between tampering and a faulty machine," said Mr Kejriwal, controversially suggesting the Election Commission is helping the BJP by ignoring complaints about EVMs. "EC is behaving like Dhritarashtra who wants his son Duryodhana (BJP) to somehow occupy the seat of power," he said.

The opposition leaders who met the Election Commission yesterday also said that by refusing to release funds needed to buy new voting machines, the government has exposed its proclivity for malpractices to win elections. VVPATs are machines that dispense paper receipts. Not enough of them are used in elections, the opposition said, stating that the centre is deliberately delaying the sanctioning of money that would allow more VVPATs to be bought for the next general election in 2019. 

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