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Opposition parties to demand use of paper ballots, meet Election Commission today

At least 17 parties, including the Shiv Sena, have been pitching for returning to ballot papers.

india Updated: Aug 27, 2018 10:15 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Lok Sabha elections,Election Commission,EVMs
Officials check a Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machine in Bengaluru during Karnataka assembly elections in May. (Arijit Sen/HT Photo)

Opposition parties will on Monday discuss with the Election Commission their demand for the use of paper ballots instead of EVMs in future elections in the country.

At least 17 parties, including the National Democratic Alliance ally Shiv Sena, have been pitching for returning to ballot papers.

These include the Congress, Trinamool Congress (TMC), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Janata Dal(Secular) (JD-S), Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Samajwadi Party, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Communist Party of India (CPI), YSR Congress, Kerala Congress Mani (KCM) and AIUDF.

“We will raise the issue of ballot papers in the meeting for fair and impartial elections. We want to make it clear that we do not consider EVMs (electronic voting machines) as tamper-proof,” an opposition leader told news agency IANS.

“Secondly, we would point out that the election expenses of political parties must also be limited along with the candidates,” he added.

The latest demand to scrap EVMs underlines the aggressive mood of the opposition camp, which has over the past year often attributed the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) victories in state assembly elections to EVMs.

The demand for ballot boxes has also brought an unlikely set of parties together, even those warring against each other – the Trinamool and the Left, the NCP and the Shiv Sena, and the TDP and the YSR Congress, among others. Among non-NDA parties, only the AIADMK, Telangana Rashtriya Samithi and the Biju Janata Dal are not supporting the demand.

Chief election commissioner OP Rawat has made public statements ruling out reverting to ballot papers in elections, asserting that the new EVMs have been designed with more stringent checks to rule out tampering or manipulation.

An EC official, who asked not to be named, said the body has also communicated to the political parties to refrain from raising doubts about the efficacy and safety of EVMs and voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPATs) machines when the poll outcome is different from what they expect.

The poll panel has called the meeting with seven national and 51 state recognised political parties to discuss various electoral issues such as electoral rolls, limiting political parties’ expenditure and timely submission of annual audited reports by parties among other things.

It also has not mentioned simultaneous polls in its official agenda of the meet released to the press, the issue is likely to come up for discussion. A majority of opposition parties have already told the Law Commission that they do not consider this proposal as practical or desirable.

The agenda for the meeting includes discussion on how to improve “accuracy, transparency and inclusiveness” of electoral rolls, measures to encourage enhanced representation of women in the political process, issues related to expenditure ceiling for parties, timely submission of annual audited reports and election expenditure reports among other things.

Also on the agenda are alternative modes of voting for domestic migrants and absentee voters.

First Published: Aug 27, 2018 10:15 IST