New Delhi: Opposition leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad (Congress), Ram Gopal Yadav (SP), D. Raja (CPI) and N. Chandrababu Naidu (TDP) talk to media persons after meeting the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) in New Delhi, on Feb 4, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
New Delhi, Feb 4 (IANS) Contending that free and fair elections have come under a "serious cloud" with EVMs a "major cause of concern", opposition parties on Monday asked the Election Commission to audit at least 50 per cent of EVMs with corresponding VVPATs in all constituencies during the Lok Sabha polls. The poll panel assured them of examining the issues.
A delegation of opposition parties comprising Congress President Rahul Gandhi and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu among others, submitted a memorandum signed by 21 parties raising concerns about EVM tampering and democratic institutions being "subverted" under the Modi government.
"We are writing to you in most trying times when each and every institution built and strengthened over decades, for safeguarding democracy is sought to be subverted by those who have scant respect for people's will," said the memorandum, citing "suspicious activities" concerning EVMs during the November-December Assembly polls in five states.
"Instances of EVMs and strong rooms becoming vulnerable to attacks and manipulations were widely recorded and reported.
"Added to this were incidents where there were power outages, failure of CCTV cameras at the strong rooms, detection of signals of wireless/mobile networks of a particular telecom operator in the vicinity of polling centres and strong rooms and so on and so forth," they said.
While the parties in 2018 had asked the Election Commission to revert to paper ballot system for the Lok Sabha elections, but with the poll battle just weeks away, they held a meeting on February 1 in the national capital where they resolved to seek for at least 50 per cent verification of VVPATs with the paper trails instead of the now 10 per cent.
"The insistence of ECI on use of EVMs is certainly not adding to the credibility of the process.
"Anything that leads to opaqueness in the electoral process is the antithesis of democracy itself. Ideally, the EC should have started the process of reverting to physical paper balloting well before the 2019 elections to enable it to implement such paper balloting in these forthcoming elections," they said.
Interacting with media after the meeting, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad raised the poll panel's "inability" to give satisfactory explanation about the concerns on EVMs raised by political parties from time to time.
"In the last 3-4 years there have been many instances where a vote has gone to the BJP irrespective of which button you press in the EVM. This is not happened once or twice but has repeatedly happened and the EC has not been able to give a satisfactory explanation," he said.
The parties said there are "serious doubts about the credibility of EVMs and the purity of the entire electoral process" and sought the EC to mandate physical counter check of paper trail and matching it with the electronic vote in at least 50 per cent of all EVMs, if not all.
"The average voter, who is central to democracy, is rightly suspicious, confused, bewildered and dissatisfied with the current state of EVM-based elections.
"Attempts by the ECI to lend reassurance to India have, unfortunately, failed miserably," said the memorandum while pointing out the absence of a provision for any audit of the machines.
"It is imperative that the EC should ensure that sample, physical counter check of the paper trail and matching it with the electronic vote should happen mandatorily in all, if not in at least 50 per cent of all EVMs," said the parties.
The poll panel said the issues raised by the opposition parties would be deliberated and examined.
"While considering the averments made by the parties, the Commission shall also keep in view the pronouncements made by the different courts as well as the report expected shortly from the Indian Statistical Institute on the subject besides the overall administrative and operational feasibility on the ground, before firming up any response," it said in a statement.