Remote voting will benefit a certain political party, not people, says Trinamool Congress

Remote voting will benefit a certain political party, not people, says Trinamool Congress

Migrant workers who will vote remotely from where they work will fall prey to local political influence, Trinamool’s Abhishek Banerjee writes to Election Commission.

TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee | ANI file photo

TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee | ANI file photo

Kolkata: The Trinamool Congress has strongly opposed the Election Commission’s move to introduce remote voting machines (RVMs) for migrant workers who are unable to travel to their home states to exercise their rights.

The party believes that these workers could be influenced by ruling governments of the states they work in – where many could be the Trinamool’s rivals.

Trinamool National General Secretary Abhishek Banerjee has told the central poll body that the RVM move seems to be “more attuned to benefitting a certain political party or platform rather than the people”.

In a two-page letter to the Secretary of the Chief Election Commission, Banerjee wrote, “I understand the Election Commission seeks to improve voter participation, however a hasty decision to chart out the territory of remote voting will have potentially damaging effects.”

The party feels that free and fair elections will not happen if RVMs are introduced in the country. Banerjee listed some of his concerns in the letter: “Considering that the migrant voter is residing in a state where no elections are undergoing, there is a possibility of manipulation by different political parties in the absence of the MCC (Model Code of Conduct).” He added, “In order to sway voters, the ruling party in the said state could use coercive measures, not evident to the voting process and hamper free and fair elections.”

He felt the security of EVM machines used in the process of remote voting “has a chance of running into vulnerability, considering the law and order in the away states would still be in control of the State Governments and not the Election Commission. Thus, the ultimate results could be tainted with a bias”.

He cited instances of EVMs recovered from the homes and cars of political leaders in recent elections.

Banerjee said this wasn’t the first time the poll body has thought of implementing blockchain technology for remote voting – which is exposed to potential security vulnerabilities.

He highlighted the possibility that a digital divide may also influence the voting. For example, domestic migrants who lack smartphones or computers or a functional internet connection may not be able to make an informed choice, he said.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) is looking at remote voting for migrant workers to combat low voter turnouts. The poll body called for an all-party meet last Monday in New Delhi to demonstrate the concept. Trinamool Congress MPs Kalyan Bandopadhyay and Mahua Moitra represented the party.

However, the Trinamool skipped the opposition meeting a day before, called by the Congress at the Constitution Club of India to discuss a strategy before meeting the ECI.

In the meeting, sixteen opposition political parties disagreed with the remote-voting move. A second meeting of opposition parties will be held on 25 January.

Trinamool MP Sukhendu Shekhar Roy told ThePrint that their participation in the second meet would be decided by Abhishek Banerjee and his chief minister aunt, Mamata.

The BJP has termed Trinamool’s opposition “anti-progress”. Speaking to ThePrint, BJP leader Rahul Sinha said, “TMC is an anti-progress party, they want vote-loot, that’s why they are opposing the ECI’s move to plug loopholes in the voting system. Trinamool had also opposed EVMs… they don’t want the nation to progress and only think about how to reap benefits.”

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