Arvind Kejriwal accepts ‘responsibility’ for Punjab defeat, but blames EVMs

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By, New Delhi
Apr 19, 2017 10:10 PM IST

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday took “responsibility” for the party’s below-par performance in Punjab but alleged that large-scale irregularities in electronic voting machines (EVMs) might have led to transfer of about 20-25% of Aam Aadmi Party’s votes to the SAD-Akali combine.

Arvind Kejriwal addressing a press conference on EVM tampering issue in New Delhi on Wednesday.(Arun Sharma/Hindustan Times)
Arvind Kejriwal addressing a press conference on EVM tampering issue in New Delhi on Wednesday.(Arun Sharma/Hindustan Times)

Kejriwal’s AAP finished with 20 seats in the 117-member Punjab assembly after internal surveys pointed to a sweep for the party.

Raising concerns over EVMs, the AAP national convenor demanded the Election Commission of India to count votes of VVPAT-enabled EVMs in order to “restore credibility of the EVMs”.

“Election commission on an experimental basis installed VVPAT on few booths across the five states. It was done at 32 places in Punjab as well. The election commission should compare the votes registered on the paper trail with votes counted on these EVMs. If the numbers match, credibility of EVMs will be established,” Kejriwal said, adding he will also write to the election body on the issue.

Speaking to the media for the first time since the election results were announced on March 11, Kejriwal said while he accepts the results in Goa, he was raising concerns over Punjab as the “narrative in the state was in favour of AAP”.

AAP came distant second behind the Congress on 77 seats, and just ahead of the ruling BJP-Shiromani Akali Dal alliance on 18. The outgoing alliance, however, garnered more votes than AAP. Linking the BJP-SAD’s performance to EVMs, Kejriwal asked: “Many said that there is anger against Akalis and AAP is sweeping the polls. Still, AAP got 25% votes and SAD got 31%. How is that possible?”

Suggesting that 20-25% of AAP’s vote share may have shifted to the Akali Dal due to the EVMs, he said: “Developed countries have given up EVMs. Should we not rethink? Even the BJP including Advaniji had said EVMs can be tampered with.”

He further said that while it was too late to do anything about the Punjab poll result, it was the responsibility of the Election Commission to “restore faith in the electoral process”.

The AAP national convenor cited examples of at least four booths where the party got lesser votes than the number of volunteers.

“We have five and nine volunteers at booths in Hargobind Nagar and Khemkaran while we got only one and five votes respectively. Where have the votes gone? Who will give reply? This certainly creates suspicion,” he added.

On March 14, Kejriwal had joined a chorus of leaders, including Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati, who had questioned EVMs after the election results in five states — Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa.

Kejriwal has also called for paper ballots to be use in the MCD elections to be held in Delhi on April 22. “I have requested the Lieutenant Governor to look into the issue as the rules would have to be amended. The election commission says poll dates have been started. So we have requested L-G a meeting of all stakeholders on the issue,” Kejriwal said.

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