Opposition rejects PM's fresh pitch for parallel polls

Opposition rejects PM's fresh pitch for parallel polls

Several Opposition parties conveyed to the poll panel that they still have doubts about the credibility of electronic voting machines (EVMs).

Notwithstanding Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fresh pitch for holding simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly polls, the Congress, Trinamool Congress and several other political parties on Monday opposed the idea at a meeting with the Election Commission (EC).

Several Opposition parties also conveyed to the poll panel that they still had doubts about the credibility of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). Some of them even demanded a return to ballot papers in the forthcoming elections.

“Many parties opposed (the idea) of ‘One Nation, One Poll’, while there were some who made valid points in favour of it,” Chief Election Officer O P Rawat told journalists after the poll panel held a consultation with political parties at Nirvachan Sadan in New Delhi.

The Congress, Trinamool Congress, TDP, DMK, AAP, JD(S), CPI, CPM and several others remained opposed to the idea.

The Opposition parties reiterated their reservations about simultaneous polls just a day after the prime minister said discussions on the same were gaining momentum. The ruling BJP and some of its allies, however, reiterated their support to the proposal.

The Election Commission had earlier this month virtually ruled out the possibility of holding simultaneous polls in 2019, citing logistical constraints and constitutional amendments.

“The lawmakers will take at least a year to frame a law (to amend the Constitution to bring One Nation, One Poll into reality) that can be enforceable. This process takes time,” the CEC said on Monday.

“Some parties have said there are problems with EVMs and VVPATs (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail devices). These views have been noted down by the commission,” said Rawat. “Some said going back to ballot is bad as it would bring back booth-capturing,” he said.

Who is repairing EVMs?

Mukul Wasnik of the Congress said that EVMs did not reflect “the will of the people”. “There have been a number of times when EVMs malfunctioned and it (the vote) went to only one party. We want to know who is repairing the EVMs and how many of the old ones are being used. We want the VVPATs and EVMs to be checked,” he said.

“We have no faith in EVMs,” Kalyan Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress said. He demanded a return to ballot papers in the next Lok Sabha elections. Satish Mishra of the BSP and Raghav Chadha of the AAP said EVMs could be hacked.

Atul Kumar Anjan of the CPI, too, questioned the credibility of EVMs.

“We should think ahead. The Election Commission has properly replied to all questions raised about the EVMs and we should look forward. (Using the) VVPAT is a good move and it should be taken forward,” union Health Minister J P Nadda, who represented the BJP in the meeting with the EC, said.

Some political parties requested the EC to ensure counting of a certain percentage of the slips generated by the VVPATS to enhance credibility of the EVMs. The commission assured the political parties that it was being looked into with the inputs from the experts of the Indian Statistical Institute. The commission also informed that any candidate might approach the concerned Returning Officer for the specific count of the VVPAT paper slips of a polling station.

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