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Ballot Papers for 2019: Congress Says BJP 'Singled Out', 70 Percent Political Parties Want EVMs Replaced

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said that alternatively, there should be 30 per cent cross-checking of EVMs with paper trail of votes to ensure integrity of electoral process.

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Updated:August 27, 2018, 11:51 PM IST
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Ballot Papers for 2019: Congress Says BJP 'Singled Out', 70 Percent Political Parties Want EVMs Replaced
Senior leader Abhishek Singhvi said the demand was made since there were doubts on the credibility of EVMs. (Representative image)
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New Delhi: The Congress on Monday claimed that over 70 percent of political parties have asked the Election Commission to replace Electronic Voting Machines with ballot papers at the all-party meet in Delhi.

Senior leader Abhishek Singhvi said the demand was made since there were doubts on the credibility of EVMs.

The Nationalist Congress Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party, Aam Aadmi Party, Trinamool Congress, Janata Dal (S), Communist Party of India, CPI-M and Forward Bloc were among those that supported the move. Sullen BJP ally Shiv Sena too backed the change to ballot papers.

Seven recognised national parties and 51 recognised state political parties were invited for the meeting. Out of the total 58 parties, 41 attended it.

Singhvi said the Congress' stand was given in writing to the Election Commission (EC) many weeks ago and it was reiterated on Monday for the second time.

He suggested that alternatively there should be 30 per cent cross-checking of EVMs with paper trail of votes to ensure integrity of electoral process.

"Our demand remains undiluted that there should be reversion to paper ballot which is the demand of other political across the spectrum," he said, claiming that the BJP was "singled out" on the issue.

Singhvi said if the EC does not agree to revert to paper ballot, then it should adhere to the suggestion 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.

The consensus in opposition ranks on the EVM issue was built thanks to TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, who had visited Delhi for two days at the end of last month and held a series of meetings with leaders of several opposition parties, including Rahul and Sonia Gandhi. She had come to the capital to invite them for her federal front rally in January 2019.

Several opposition parties have been demanding since last year that EVMs be replaced with ballot papers, alleging that the machines have been rigged to favour the ruling BJP.

This demand had gained momentum after 2017, when Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party and Mayawati’s BSP suffered huge reverses in the Uttar Pradesh elections, leading them to contend that EVMs were tampered to help the BJP.

In April this year, the EC had told the Supreme Court that it would introduce VVPAT machines on all polling booths across the country ahead of the 2019 General Election.

However, according to a recent newspaper report, the EC was running way behind schedule on introducing VVPAT for all polling booths ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. It said that the polling body had only managed to complete 22% of its targets as of July this year.

The Congress on Monday also demanded that ceiling be imposed on the expenditure by political parties during poll campaign, Singhvi said.

Currently, there is a limit on poll expenses by a candidate in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies but there is no limit on the expenses made by a political party during elections.

"Unregulated party expenditure is a dangerous proposition... There should be a ceiling on the expenditure by political parties," he said. Singhvi said the party has opposed the electoral bonds, terming them as a "fraud".

"The electoral bonds are yet another fraud (committed) on the nation... This is not a new stand. You are in fact legitimising anonymity; you are in fact legitimising large sums of money without even the scrutiny which happens today”.

"You are actually making it much worse... You are in fact legitimising humongous amounts of donation without revealing the name of the donor," he said.

The opposition party further demanded weeding out of all duplicate and false voters from the voters list to ensure a free and fair election.

The party has alleged that there are 60 lakh duplicate names in the voters list for Madhya Pradesh and another 45 lakh for Rajasthan. Both the states go to polls later this year.

"These are shocking discoveries going to the root of the electoral process at the pre-declaration stage and suffice it to state that the numbers are significant enough to alter and distort the outcome of the electoral process. Backbone of democracy are free and fair elections and credible voter list is the first test.

"It goes without saying that the integrity of the electoral process will be severely compromised if proper physical verification is not conducted and so many bogus voters are allowed to persist on the rolls," he said.

The Congress said this is a national issue affecting all political parties and therefore strict compliance is necessary.

The party has said that a comprehensive verification of voters must be carried out, preferably door-to-door, before the 2019 general elections as well an action plan to deal with the same must be prepared by the EC.
| Edited by: Sanchari Chatterjee
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