Indian Elections: Row over 'tinkering of EVM'
With Indian parliamentary polls just months away, opposition parties yesterday flagged before the Election Commission the alleged tinkering of Electronic Voting Machines which they claim ensures votes in favour of one party and demanded a return to paper ballots.
At an all-party meeting the EC convened here, the opposition parties questioned how in every case of EVM malfunction, the vote goes to only one party and demanded that the Commission hand over the name and address of the firms that repair the EVMs.
Representatives of BJP, opposition Congress, Trinamool Congress, Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party, CPI, CPI (M) and Nationalist Congress Party and 51 state parties were present in the meeting called by the EC to find political consensus on electoral reforms.
Since the BJP's sweeping victory in Uttar Pradesh state assembly elections in 2017, Mayawati, along with Aam Aadmi Party, had been alleging that the results were swung because of manipulation of the EVMs.
The Election Commission has dismissed the allegation and challenged anyone to hack into an EVM.
Emerging from yesterday's meeting, Congress leader Mukul Wasnik told the media that EVMs "do not reflect the will of the people".
"There have been a number of times when EVMs malfunction and it [the vote] goes to only one political party. We want to know who is repairing the EVMs and how many of the old ones are being used. We want the VVPAT [voter-verified paper audit trail] and the EVMs to be checked," he said.
Going a step further, Trinamool Congress leader Kalyan Banerjee demanded a return to ballot boxes. "We have no faith in EVMs," he said.
The Election Commission had used VVPAT in some recent polls apart from keeping a paper record of every vote cast. This was matched with the result given by EVMs in only some cases.
Former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi, has however, said the EC only matches one per cent of the votes. To dispel doubts, the Commission should allow matching results of at least five per cent EVMs and paper trail slips, he said.
The opposition parties want at least 30 percent of them to be cross-checked.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission said it would provide "satisfactory solution" to the concerns raised by the political parties on the EVMs.
Chief Election Commissioner O P Rawat told reporters that "we will definitely look into all the suggestions given by them [political parties] and there will be a satisfactory solution to them."
Some parties also suggested that the number of constituencies where results of EVM and paper audit trail device are matched be increased to enhance the confidence of voters and parties in the reliability of the voting mode.
"Nothing final has been decided yet but one way to dispel fears is to increase the number of constituencies where EVM and paper trail machine results are matched," said a senior EC functionary.
EVMs were first used in election in India in May, 1982 in a Kerala by-polls. But since there was no law prescribing its use, the Supreme Court struck down the election.