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EC must ensure free, fair polls in Gujarat

DH News Service, Bengaluru, Dec 2 2017, 0:33 IST

Elections to the Gujarat assembly are just over a week away and the campaign has peaked in most places, especially in seats which go to the polls in the first phase. In a virtual bipolar contest, the Congress is considered to have improved its position from past elections and the BJP, which had absolute domination in the state, is seen to be working harder to retain its strength. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is barnstorming the state as he has never done before. The Congress, sensing an opportunity, has also kept the momentum of the campaign high. It has found new friends and allies and has given much thought to the logistics and process of polling. In order to ensure that the party is not beaten at the finishing line by unfair means or in unexpected ways, it has called for a fully fool-proof polling process and requested the Election Commission to ensure this.

The party has apprehensions about the misuse of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and has made this clear. Though the Election Commission has ruled out the possibility of anyone tampering with the EVMs, there are persisting suspicions about their working. Many such complaints have been voiced after the Modi government came to power at the Centre. They were heard after the UP and Uttarakhand elections. The recent municipal elections in UP saw the malfunctioning of EVMs and the disappearance of names from voters' lists in some places. One persistent complaint, from across states where faulty EVMs have been noticed, is that the vote goes to the BJP even when the voter votes for other parties. The EC has announced that VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) facility, which assures the voter that the vote has been registered as intended, will be installed in all the polling booths in Gujarat. But the Congress wants to be fully reassured on the matter.

The Congress has prepared a training module for its candidates and polling agents which educates them on the functioning of EVMs and the VVPAT facility. They have been given a clear idea of the functioning of the machines, taught the do's and don'ts of the process and told to be vigilant so that any malfunctioning of the machines can be immediately detected. The party has also demanded that a retired or sitting Supreme Court judge should oversee the functioning of the machines. These concerns of the party should be addressed by the Election Commission. It is not enough if the facility for VVPAT verification is made available in all the booths. The Election Commission should do everything needed to satisfy the nation that both the campaigning and the voting in the state are free and fair.

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