The opposition parties, especially Congress, SP and BSP, once again raised the issue of EVMs citing reports of faults with the machines in Madhya Pradesh last week. The issue also led to a brief adjournment of proceedings in Rajya Sabha.
The Opposition has been raising the issue of EVMs soon after the results of recently held assembly polls in five states, including UP, where the BJP performed exceedingly well.
Soon after the house proceedings began, senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh said the testing of EVMs for a by-election in Madhya Pradesh had a few days back had shown manipulations wherein vote would be credited to BJP irrespective of the candidate for whom it has been cast.
As he pressed for the ballot papers to be used for the upcoming by-elections and elections, other Opposition members also joined the issue.
Countering Singh, Union HRD Minister Prakash Javedkar said the Election Commission has made it clear there can be no manipulation of EVMs and if the opposition had any problem they should go to it and not waste Parliament’s time.
But the opposition was adamant and kept its pitch on the matter.
SP’s Ramgopal Yadav went on to allege that the EVMs are being deliberately programmed to favour the BJP, while BSP chief Mayawati said mass irregularities were committed in the recently concluded assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.
Calling it “murder of democracy”, she demanded the use of ballot papers in future elections.
But the pandemonium broke through when senior BSP MP Satish Misra said “this was a government of EVMs and the ministers protesting were EVM ministers”. The treasury benches protested these remarks as an insult to the people and democracy.
Meanwhile, Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien asked the Opposition members to not protest refusing to allow discussion on the issue.
Another SP member Naresh Agrawal said chips used in EVMs are being programmed to favour the BJP. But at that, Kurien said the Election Commission has clarified that this is not possible.
The issue also led to exchanges between MoS Parliamentary Affairs Naqvi and Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad.
Naqvi said the general elections in 2004 and 2009 and the assembly elections in Bihar, Punjab and Delhi where the BJP lost, were all conducted using EVMs and the Congress did not seem to have any objections then.
But Azad said free and fair elections are the foundation of Indian democracy and “unfortunately for the first time, doubts have been cast over EVMs”. He also demanded that by-elections in Madhya Pradesh and the coming assembly polls in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh be conducted using ballot papers.
Naqvi again said the aspersions cast are not against the government but against the Election Commission and the people of the country. “If victory has a glamour, defeat should have grace,” he said.
As the opposition MPs refused to relent and took their protest into the Well of the House, Kurien adjourned the proceedings for about 7 minutes.