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Oppn raises concerns on EVM, EC assures solution

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

With a slew of political parties pressing for reverting to ballot papers instead of the existing electronic voting machines (EVMs) for conducting polls at the all-party meeting on Monday, the Election Commission of India said it would provide “satisfactory solution” to their various concerns including those questioning the credibility of EVMs.

The meeting of all recognised national and state political parties was convenved by the Election Commission (EC) to deliberate on a broad spectrum of issues relating to elections. The meeting was held in the run-up to crucial state assemblies polls later this year leading to the general elections early next year.

Briefing reporters after the meeting, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) O P Rawat said, “We will definitely look into all the suggestions given by them (political parties) and there will be a satisfactory solution to them.”

A number of Opposition parties reportedly raised the issues of EVM tampering and technical glitches in the voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) system. The Opposition parties including the Congress, Trinamul, BSP, DMK and the CPI made a pitch for a return to ballot papers in elections while the BJP and the BJD said they were satisfied with EVMs.

Some parties also suggested that the number of constituencies where results of EVMs and VVPATs are matched be increased to enhance the confidence of voters and parties in the credibility of the polling process.

Responding to a volley of queries about several Opposition parties’ bid to question EVMs’ reliability, Rawat said the EC would take a comprehensive view on the issue.

“Some of the parties said that going back to ballot is really bad because we don’t want to bring back the booth capturing. At the same time, some parties said there are some problems with EVMs and issues with VVPATs’ slip count. All those things have been noted by the EC commission and it will take a call,” the CEC said.

He made it clear that the EC would would take a call on all the issues raised by parties including on EVMs and ballot papers, integrity of electoral rolls and ceiling on expenditure by political parties.

On the question of simultaneous Lok Sabha and state assemblies’ elections, Rawat said some parties raised the ‘one nation, one poll’ issue with some opposing it and a few supporting it. The ruling BJP supported it.

Many parties had also questioned the EVMs’ reliability last year. The then CEC Nasim Zaidi had maintained that the EC’s EVMs were “fully non-tamperable” and with 100 per cent use of paper trail machines in all future elections the issue of tamperability of the EVMs would be closed.

The “failure rate” of EVMs in most elections has reportedly been 0.7 per cent while over 11 per cent of the 10,300 VVPAT machines across 10 states had developed faults during the bypolls on 28 May this year.

VVPATs will be now used in all polling stations. But the results of EVMs and VVPATs are currently matched only in one polling station per constituency.

After the all-party meeting, the principal Opposition Congress told reporters that over 70 per cent of political parties on Monday placed the demand before the EC for reverting to the old voting system of ballot papers.

The Congress party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi reportedly said this demand was made since there were doubts on the EVMs’ credibility, asking the EC to reintroduce ballot papers from the next election.

He said alternatively the opposition parties have suggested that in at least 30 per cent of the polling booths there should be paper trail of EVMs to check the authenticity of votes cast there.

The Congress also demanded that a ceiling be imposed on the expenditure by political parties during poll campaign. Currently, there is a limit on poll expenses by a candidate in Lok Sabha and state assemblies but there is no limit on the expenses made by a political party during elections.

“Unregulated par ty expenditure is a dangerous proposition….There should be a ceiling on the expenditure by political parties,” Singhvi said.

The Congress also demanded weeding out of all false and duplicate names from the voters list to ensure free and fair polls.