Opposition seeks ban on EVMs for Maharashtra polls

Staging a show of unity,  Maharashtra opposition parties on Friday demanded a ban on the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and return to the old ballot-paper system in the forthcoming Vidhan Sabha elections.

Top leaders of the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and other smaller parties alleged that there were many discrepancies in the EVMs. 

"The Lok Sabha elections which have raised serious doubts in the minds of the people...the ballot paper system should be brought back," the leaders said at a news conference in the MIG Club at Bandra.

They also announced a procession on 21 August to press their demand. 

The leaders present included state Congress president Balasaheb Thorat,  former deputy chief ministers Chhagan Bhujbal and Ajit Pawar of the NCP,  MNS president Raj Thackeray, Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana founder Raju Shetti,  CPI leader Prakash Reddy, Janata Dal (S) leader justice (retd) BG Kolse Patil and AAP leader Brigadier (retd) Sudhir Sawant.

"The results of the last Lok Sabha elections were shocking and the anti-EVMs agitation was to bring back honesty and transparency in the electoral process," said Thorat.

"Even developed countries in the world have stopped using EVMs, so even India should return to ballot paper voting," said Pawar, nephew of NCP founder-president Sharad Pawar.

“When countries like the USA and Japan have done away with EVMs why do we want to remain in old system," said Bhujbal.

According to Bhujbal,  the election process must be completely transparent, but to ensure this, return to ballot paper is the only option.

Thackeray said even the US President has expressed reservations over the EVMs, but US-made microchips are used in Indian EVMs.

Thackeray,  who is spearheading the campaign, said, “On 21 August, people will fill up forms opposing EVMs, which will be submitted to the Election Commission."He also appealed to the BJP-Shiv Sena to join the anti-EVMs movement in the interest of democracy.

Shetti said that ballot papers will bring in total transparency in the polling process.

“We appeal to all village panchayats to pass a resolution on 15 August for banning EVMs and reintroduce the ballot paper system,” Shetti said.

Opposition parties must introspect, not blame EVMs : Maha CM

Taking a dig at the opposition parties,  Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said that the need of the hour for them is to introspect and not blame the EVMs. 

"They should stop blaming EVMs.... instead they should introspect," Fadnavis told reporters in Wardha during the Maha Janadesh Yatra. 

"They (opposition parties) are rattled after the debacle in Lok Sabha elections (of 2014 and 2019)," the senior BJP leader said,  adding that it was time they accept the truth. "EVMs are not something that is new...they should convince themselves to accept the truth," he added.

EVMs are safe,  says CEO

EVMs are safe and secure, Maharashtra's chief electoral officer Baldev Singh said.  During the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, around 61.3 crore people across the country voted through EVMs at over 10 lakh polling stations and confirmed their vote on voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT). The VVPAT machines, attached with EVMs, allow the voters to verify that their votes are cast as intended.

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