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Tuesday, Aug 20, 2019

Opposition seeks debate on electoral reforms

As many as 14 Opposition parties, including those averse to simultaneous elections, have sent a notice to the Rajya Sabha for a debate that is set to take place next week.

india Updated: Jun 29, 2019 15:05 IST
Smriti Kak Ramachandran and Saubhadra Chatterjee
Smriti Kak Ramachandran and Saubhadra Chatterjee
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The move comes soon after the Prime Minister criticised the Congress for questioning  the efficacy of  EVMs (and blaming them for their defeat in the national elections).
The move comes soon after the Prime Minister criticised the Congress for questioning the efficacy of EVMs (and blaming them for their defeat in the national elections).(HT Photo)
         

Several opposition parties are seeking a debate in the upper house of Parliament on electoral reforms, especially the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs), to counter a push for electoral reforms built around simultaneous state and parliamentary elections by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

As many as 14 Opposition parties, including those averse to simultaneous elections, have sent a notice to the Rajya Sabha for a debate that is set to take place next week. The parties are : the Congress, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Telugu Desam Party, the People’s Democratic Party, the Nationalist Congress Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Aam Admi Party, the Kerala Mani Congress, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Communist Party of India (Marxist) Communist Party of India and the Trinamool Congress. The Trinamool Congress is likely to move the motion for the discussion.

The move comes soon after the Prime Minister criticised the Congress for questioning the efficacy of EVMs (and blaming them for their defeat in the national elections). On Wednesday, replying to the debate on the President’s address to Parliament, Modi said, “When the Congress faces defeat, they claim that the entire electoral process is flawed. They could not win any seats in 17 states...,” Modi told the Rajya Sabha. He also taunted the Congress and some other Opposition parties for not taking up the challenge when the Election Commission (EC) asked them to prove EVMs can be tampered with.

Trinamool Congress’s Rajya Sabah floor leader Derek O’Brien rejected Modi’s argument that the political parties should at least discuss the idea of simultaneous polls and offer suggestions. “Why just one idea in electoral reforms? What about the other electoral reforms? Why not introducing a collegium system to elect election commissioners?,” O’Brien said on Friday.

Opposition parties have demanded that a significant proportion of these be matched with the EVM counts , but the Supreme Court stuck with its original guidance of matching these only with five machines in every assembly segment of a parliamentary constituency. Significantly, even these did not find any discrepancies.

D Raja of the CPI said, “The Indrajit Gupta committee had also pitched for state funding…we have seen what happens with electoral bonds, only the BJP has managed to get a lion’s share of income from the bonds,” he said.

Speaking during the thanksgiving motion to the President’s address, Satish Misra of the BSP also suggested reverting to the paper ballot system.

An MP from YSRC Party, which has so far stayed away from joining the opposition on the demand, said the party does not believe state funding of elections is a possibility.

According to experts, the government can consider certain steps to dispel concerns regarding EVMs. “I have been an election observer long ago. I found EVMs tamper-proof. But now I think the government must tell parties who is manufacturing the EVMs...,” said former parliamentary affairs secretary Afzal Amanullah.

First Published: Jun 29, 2019 05:55 IST

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