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11 Apr 2017

All-party meet on EVMs

Sanjay K. Jha, TT, New Delhi, April 10: The Election Commission has promised to call an all-party meeting on electronic voting machines after the Congress today led a delegation of 17 opposition parties to mount pressure on the panel to review its stand that EVMs cannot be manipulated.
The delegation asked the commission to stop using the machines till voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines were made available for every EVM.
The opposition parties have also decided to approach President Pranab Mukherjee and might meet him the day after tomorrow.
The Congress, which had appeared initially reluctant to lead the campaign on EVMs, had called a meeting of all the opposition parties this morning to discuss the issue. Among those that attended were mutually hostile parties like the Left and Trinamul and the BSP and the Samajwadi Party.
A memorandum submitted to the commission, signed by the 17 parties, pointed out that most democracies in the world did not use voting machines.
It mentioned that recent experiences in India - including the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, bypolls and municipal elections in Maharashtra - had created doubts in the minds of people.
The memo also said the Supreme Court had pointed to the lack of confidence in EVMs without a VVPAT machine, a printer-like apparatus that generates a receipt when a vote is cast, showing the serial number, name and symbol of the candidate.
"Despite the categorical observations of the Supreme Court, the VVPAT units have not been used comprehensively along with the EVMs in the recently held Assembly elections," the memorandum said.
It said the funds required to procure VVPAT machines for all EVMs before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections had "not been granted", adding: "The lack of response from the government and its refusal to provide the funds, raise serious doubts about the intent of the government and its commitment to the conduct of free and fair elections."
The commission, which has barely 53,000 VVPAT machines - or one for every hundred EVMs which number over 50 lakh - has been frantically asking the government to release the money.
Although it was BSP boss Mayawati who had accused the BJP of manipulating EVMs in the Uttar Pradesh polls, the campaign has gained momentum with the Congress deciding to take it up with full force.
The BSP will hold protests in every district of Uttar Pradesh tomorrow - the 11th - as the results were declared on March 11.
Asked if today's show of unity was the stepping stone for a grand alliance against the BJP in the 2019 polls, a senior Congress leader said: "Yes, this should be the first major step towards that goal. This unity will be seen in the (July) presidential election too."
Asked how Trinamul and the CPM, or the SP and the BSP, could come together, Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who was in Delhi today, told reporters: "In politics, doors open when you talk."
On EVMs, she said the poll panel was "duty-bound" to clear the doubts. "EVMs can be tampered with."

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