Electoral reforms debate in RS today

The short duration discussion on the need for electoral reforms in the country came following a notice by 12 Opposition parties, including Congress, Trinamool Congress, Left parties, SP and BSP among others. PDP and nominated MP KTS Tulsi also gave separa

Sparks will fly in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday afternoon as a united Opposition is all set to take on the Narendra Modi government on electoral reforms raising the issue of possible EVM manipulation while the ruling BJP is likely to focus on simultaneous polls.

The short duration discussion on the need for electoral reforms in the country came following a notice by 12 Opposition parties, including Congress, Trinamool Congress, Left parties, SP and BSP among others. PDP and nominated MP KTS Tulsi also gave separate notices.

Trinamool Congress' Derek O'Brien will open the debate from the Opposition side while others Opposition MPs Anand Sharma and Kapil Sibal (Congress), Satish Chandra Mishra (BSP), Ramgopal Yadav (SP), Tiruchi Siva (DMK), Majid Memon (NCP), Manoj K Jha (RJD), D Raja (CPI) and Sanjay Singh (AAP) are likely to participate in the debate from Opposition side.

On Tuesday, around 150 retired bureaucrats, military veterans and academics questioned the “procrastination, silence and inaction” of the Election Commission on questions raised on Lok Sabha elections. "The 2019 General Elections appear to have been one of the least free and fair elections that the country has had in the past three decades or so," they said in a letter to the Election Commission.

After the Lok Sabha debacle, the Opposition has now shown signs of re-grouping at least on the floor of Parliament by launching coordinated attacks on the government.

A senior Opposition leader said the notice on electoral reforms came after informal discussions. Another move was this Monday when the Opposition decided to field Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad towards the end of the debate on President's Rule in Jammu and Kashmir rather than open it from Opposition ranks.

Opposition parties, sources said, will strongly raise the issue of EVMs and its tampering and tempers are likely to fly high in the debate, as they had been vocal on the manipulation of these machines. They will also raise the issue of "missing" EVMs.

MPs from Congress, NCP and BSP are likely to focus on EVMs and the demand to return to ballot papers while other parties will focus issues like the appointment process of Election Commissioners and state funding of parties for election campaign among others, Opposition sources said. Experts invited by NCP chief Sharad Pawar had recently briefed Opposition leaders on how EVMs can be manipulated.

The BJP will counter the charges against EVMs like it has been doing for the past couple of years. The BJP debaters are likely to take a cue from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's reply during the Motion of Thanks to the President's speech debate and be vocal on 'One Nation, One Poll' plank, which most of the Opposition are against.

In Parliament, Modi had made a strong pitch for electoral reforms and backed the use of EVMs. Targeting Congress, he had said, "We brought the party from nothing to this stage. We lost elections but we never blamed circumstances. When there is no self-confidence, people start looking for excuses. There was no soul searching. This is the test of leadership. And now there is no point in lowering the morale of cadres. Prep up and let’s be prepared for the next fight." Modi said.

Last month, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi had said on the doubts over EVMs, "there is no smoke without fire."

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