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Opposition parties stand with Congress, demand a return to ballot paper at EC meet

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The Congress also wants a list of all old and new EVMs in use. The demand was made at an all-party meet called by the poll panel on electoral reforms. 

New Delhi: At the all-party meet called by the Election Commission of India to discuss electoral reforms, the Congress Monday demanded either a return to ballot paper or the cross checking of at least 30 per cent of the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT).

In its list of demands with respect to the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), the party also sought to make public a list of all old and new EVMs in use.

At the all-party meet, currently underway, the EC has invited seven national and 51 regional parties. In its presentation, the Congress, represented by leaders Mukul Wasnik and Muhammad Khan, also demanded the EC give out details of who is entrusted with repairing EVMs that malfunction, said sources present in the meeting.

Also read: Revert to ballot papers, dump voting machines: Congress

“More recently, EVMs have been found faulty and non-functional on multiple occasions. Across the country, this has put a question mark on the credibility, independence and fairness of the EVMs. If indeed the objective is to ensure greater confidence in EVMs, then a more comprehensive audit of VVPAT should be welcome,” the party said in its presentation.

The party, however, said the conditions it has laid for VVPAT are “essential pre-conditions” for continued use of EVMs, but in the interim, “given the prevailing climate,” the Congress demands “reverting to the paper ballot.”

United opposition

A majority of opposition parties sided with the Congress on the issue, said sources. The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supported the Congress stand on the issue. The Janata Dal (Secular) also demanded better audit of VVPATs. Former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) also demanded either paper ballots or more effective verification of VVPATs. Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), meanwhile, demanded that 20 per cent VVPATs be cross checked.

The in-sync demands of these parties come at a time when a motley group of opposition parties have been attempting to forge a grand alliance ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in order to take on the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

According to sources in the meeting, Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) — BJP ally — said it fully supports EVMs, claiming it remembers undesirable experiences from times when ballot paper was used.

Also read: Despite ‘reform’, political parties are getting large anonymous donations

Besides the EVM issue, political funding was also discussed at length.

All parties which have made presentations so far have supported a cap on political funding, except the BJP, said sources. The BJP took a dichotomous stand saying there should be a cap on political funding, but not on crowdfunding. Effectively, this means the BJP has absolved electoral bonds — a form of crowdfunding — from any limit, said sources.

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  1. You’ve told us the opposition’s demands. Please tell us the ECI’s exact response including their reasons for the same. (two months have already passed since the demands.)

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