HYDERABAD/NEW DELHI :
Opposition parties on Sunday decided to approach the Supreme Court to secure a direction to the Election Commission (EC) for paper verification of at least half the votes cast through electronic voting machines (EVMs).
Four leaders representing 21 opposition parties met in Delhi and decided to organize a nationwide campaign on discrepancies and malfunctioning of EVMs. Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi were among those who attended the meeting.
“We do not think the EC is doing enough to address the issue of EVM malfunctioning," Singhvi said after the meeting.
The Supreme Court had directed EC on 8 April to increase random matching of voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) slips with EVMs to five polling booths per assembly segment from one at present, in the ongoing Lok Sabha polls, to ensure that votes cast electronically were indeed going to the intended recipient.
Opposition parties also decided that representatives of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) would meet EC over complaints related to faulty EVMs and other issues with regard to the single-phase elections held in AP on 11 April. Naidu, who met the chief election commissioner (CEC) on Saturday, has complained about EC’s “systemic failure and partisan attitude".
“Only one party is against the counting of VVPAT slips because the EVM malfunctioning is clearly helping them," said Kejriwal, national convener of the Aam Aadmi Party. “These EVM machines are programmed to vote only for BJP. How is it possible that every malfunctioned machine malfunctions in favour of BJP?"
Naidu met CEC Sunil Arora after reports that some EVMs had malfunctioned at the start of polling across the state. He claimed that in some places polling began as late as 1pm on 11 April due to problems with the voting machines. Naidu, in a letter to Arora, asked EC to use paper ballots.
After this meeting, Naidu and his team met Sudeep Jain, deputy election commissioner in charge of EVMs, and D.T. Shahani, chairman of its technical expert committee, on the same day. The two officials will meet TDP representatives on Monday. Naidu has also demanded re-polling in some booths, citing EVM malfunctioning.
EC, however, objected to the presence of Hari Prasad Vemuru, who was part of Naidu’s team and is alleged to have been involved in an EVM theft in 2010. A letter was sent to TDP’s legal cell head, K. Ravindra Kumar, informing the same, adding that any other expert without such “antecedents" could meet EC officials on Monday.
Kumar replied that Vemuru was part of the delegation in his capacity as technology adviser to Naidu. “To my knowledge, no charge sheet has been filed in the above crime (as mentioned in the letter) even after nine years... his efforts were recognized and his suggestions were taken positively by both erstwhile CECs Dr. S.Y. Qureshi and V.S. Sampath," the letter said.
A senior BJP leader said opposition parties were trying to undermine EC and the election process in the country.
“The opposition parties are trying to create doubt in the minds of the people," the BJP leader said on condition of anonymity.
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