Photo: Mint
Photo: Mint

Govt, opposition in face-off over electoral reforms

  • The Opposition demands ballot papers in elections instead of EVMs and denounced the govt’s proposal for simultaneous polls
  • The debate came in the backdrop of a government proposal for ‘One Nation One Election’— simultaneous Lok Sabha and assembly polls

NEW DELHI: Opposition parties rounded on the government in a debate on poll reforms in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, demanding ballot papers and denouncing proposals for simultaneous elections, prompting the government to mount a spirited defence of electronic voting machines (EVMs).

The debate, the outcome of notices given by as many as 12 Opposition parties, came in the backdrop of a government proposal for “One Nation One Election"— simultaneous Lok Sabha and assembly polls.

Initiating the discussion, Derek O’Brien of the Trinamool Congress said the April-May general election showed the Election Commission (EC) was indirectly getting “directives" from the Centre, drawing criticism from Rajya Sahba chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu.

O’Brien launched a scathing attack on the EC for suspending campaigning in West Bengal 24 hours ahead of schedule, following political violence.

“The army and armed forces need to be kept out of elections," O’Brien added, referring to the BJP’s campaigns revolving around the Pulwama attack and the Balakot air strike. “Influence of money in elections needs to be tracked, the ballot process must be brought in, multi-phase elections must be conducted, platforms such as Facebook and other international companies must be kept off Indian elections and the misuse of data must be avoided."

The Congress party’s Kapil Sibal said, “There is social media misuse. The way in which a certain political party has used Facebook and Google to target voters needs to be looked at. Namo TV, a movie was made (on PM Narendra Modi) and BJP was the top spender on Google—we need to be worried about what the role of the media is."

Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “Four Lok Sabha elections have been conducted through EVMs," adding: “If Manmohan Singh has become the PM twice through EVMs, then it is fine; if Mamata Banerjee becomes the CM twice in West Bengal, then EVMs are fine? If Congress could win Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, then EVMs are fine but if Narendra Modi wins elections through EVMs, then EVMs malfunction? This double standard impinges upon the credibility of the polity of the country."

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