Opposition to move SC again to seek verification of 50% of VVPAT votes


New Delhi: Election officials aware people about the EVM and VVPAT machines at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, Saturday, April 6, 2019. (PTI Photo)

New Delhi: Election officials aware people about the EVM and VVPAT machines at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, Saturday, April 6, 2019. (PTI Photo)

Persisting with their doubts over the credibility of EVMs, several opposition parties Sunday said they will move to Supreme Court again to seek verification of at least 50 per cent of the polled votes against VVPAT slips.

Opposition parties, including the Congress, Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Samajwadi Party, CPI and CPI(M), jointly addressed a press conference to highlight the issue of transparency in the election process and protection of voter rights and gave a call to “save democracy”.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of “programming” the electronic voting machines to win the Lok Sabha polls, while his Andhra Pradesh counterpart Chandrababu Naidu said 21 political parties have demanded matching of the VVPAT slips with at least 50 per cent of the votes cast through the EVMs.

Naidu had met Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora Saturday to raise the issue of alleged malfunctioning of EVMs.

The demand by the parties comes days before the 2nd phase of the ongoing Lok Sabha elections on April 18, when the total of 97 constituencies across 13 states go to polls. The first of the seven-phase polls was held on April 11.

The Supreme Court had on Monday asked the Election Commission to increase the random matching of VVPAT slips with votes cast through EVMs at five polling booths per assembly segment, from one at present, in the Lok Sabha polls.

It had given the direction saying the measure would provide greater satisfaction not just to political parties but the entire electorate.

The opposition parties, including the Congress, have been demanding that at least 50 per cent of all votes polled through EVMs be verified against the paper slips of the voters’ verifiable paper audit trail (VVPATs) machines.

A VVPAT is an auxiliary, independent device linked to an electronic voting machine to allow voters to see if the votes cast by them have gone to the right candidate. The VVPATs are also meant to help detect any possible “election fraud” or malfunction of EVMs.

The Election Commission of India has decided to use VVAPTs with all the EVMs in the ongoing elections to impart greater transparency and credibility to the country’s poll process.

The BJP, meanwhile, termed the opposition parties’ meet in Delhi an exercise “to find excuses for their impending massive defeat” in the Lok Sabha polls.
In a separate press conference, BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao said, “The so-called all-party meeting convened in Delhi is nothing but a confession of defeat by the so-called Mahagathbandhan.”

“They are already trying to find excuses for their impending massive defeat. They have not only failed to mount a challenge against the BJP in this election but have also failed as an opposition in the last five years,” he added.

After the opposition parties’ meet on EVMs, AAP supremo Kejriwal told reporters that the people were losing faith in EVMs and the election procedure.

Congress leaders and senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Singhvi also attended the conference.

Singhvi said the opposition parties will approach the Supreme Court for a direction to the EC for matching at least 50 per cent of the votes recorded in VVPAT slips with those registered by EVMs in every assembly segment.

Sibal said, If the EC ignores this issue, we will take other measures. We will not sit quietly. We will approach the Supreme Court.”

Singhvi said the opposition parties would launch a nationwide campaign on the issue of “discrepancies” in EVMs and alleged the EC was not doing enough to address it.

“Questions were raised after the first phase of elections, we don’t think the EC is paying adequate attention. If you press the button before X party, the vote goes to Y party. VVPAT displays (paper slips) only for 3 seconds, instead of 7 seconds,” he claimed.

“Why the EC does not want 50 per cent VVPAT slips to be counted. Today, 20 to 25 per cent EVMs are not working properly. People vote till 4 am and wait in queues. What does this mean? asked Sibal, doubting the EC’s intentions.

It will be unfortunate if the EC supports voting machines instead of the voters, he added.

Accusing the BJP of “programming the EVMs” to win the poll, Kejriwal claimed, “People don’t believe in EVMs anymore.”

He said all opposition parties, except the BJP which is “benefitting out of this manipulation of machines”, want the counting of at least 50 per cent of the VVPAT slips.

The loss of faith in the electoral procedure is raising a question mark on the country’s democratic structure,” he said.

He also accused the poll panel of ignoring the complaints of manipulations of EVMs.

“Why is the EC not listening or acting on the complaints? There is a serious manipulation of EVMs. Why is the EC ignoring this?” he asked.

Claiming that all votes go to the BJP irrespective of the buttons pressed on EVMs, Kejriwal asked why this discrepancy was not being investigated by the EC.

Asserting that the EVMs are not reliable, the opposition parties’ key interlocutor Naidu said they are not satisfied with the Supreme Court order to the EC to increase the number of EVM’s to be randomly verified from one to only five per assembly constituency.

He said a fresh petition will be filed in the matter.