TT, New Delhi, April 1: The Congress today asked the Election Commission to hold polls through paper ballots after an electronic voting machine allegedly malfunctioned during a trial yesterday ahead of by-elections in Madhya Pradesh.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal too approached the poll panel to highlight yesterday's demo at Ater constituency in Bhind, Madhya Pradesh, and sought paper ballots for the upcoming Delhi civic elections.
Both the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party teams that met the poll panel portrayed the Ater controversy as lending credence to the allegation that voting machines had been rigged during the February-March Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.
Madhya Pradesh Congress chief Arun Yadav too wrote to the chief election commissioner, demanding paper ballots for the April 9 by-elections to the Ater and Bandhavgarh Assembly seats in the state. Yadav also sought a CBI probe into yesterday's demo.
The Bahujan Samaj Party, which has led the charges of voting-machine rigging in Uttar Pradesh, described the developments as vindication of its stand.
Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad tweeted: "Wonderful! If it is by mistake as is being claimed, why did the EVM not favour any other party? It's a very serious matter and a high-level inquiry is called for."
Journalists who were at the demo have said that seven to eight different buttons had been pressed on the voting machine and each time the paper trail showed a wrong symbol, with the BJP the most favoured but not the sole beneficiary.
Congress communications chief Randeep Surjewala criticised Madhya Pradesh chief electoral officer Saleena Singh for allegedly threatening to detain journalists if they reported on the results of the demo. The bureaucrat has said she was joking and claimed the journalists too laughed with her.
Led by Mohan Prakash, general secretary in charge of Madhya Pradesh, the Congress delegation told the Election Commission that any suspicion about the veracity of a poll result would weaken democracy. It sought urgent steps to address the concerns.
The Congress highlighted that virtually every major political party had at some stage expressed doubts about the voting machines (even the BJP had done so after the 2009 general election).
"I have always been doubtful about the voting machines. The whole world conducts elections using paper ballots; what is the problem in India?" Congress veteran Digvijaya Singh, who was part of the delegation, told reporters.
Another delegation member, Jyotiraditya Scindia, said: "A fair election is possible only after these doubts are cleared. There is also a question about the impartiality of the officials posted in Bhind. Action should be taken against them."
Earlier, Mayawati had written to the Election Commission seeking re-polling in Uttar Pradesh. She has called for the observance of a "black day" in every district of the state on the 11th of every month (the poll results were declared on March 11).
Her party is collecting evidence from the constituencies to build a strong case.
The Shiv Sena has filed a writ petition in Bombay High Court questioning the functioning of the voting machines.
The Congress has been cautious on the subject but senior MP Ghulam Nabi Azad has expressed his doubts about the voting machines in the Rajya Sabha and dared the BJP to have a re-election in Uttar Pradesh.
Azad has said the Congress is ready to face re-polling in Punjab, where it won the vote.
Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken too has written to the poll panel seeking paper ballots in the municipal elections.