Congress MP Jairam Ramesh alleged on Sunday that the Election Commission failed to provide any substantive response to the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance’s “genuine concerns” about electronic voting machines, The Hindu reported.

In a letter to Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar, the Congress general secretary in charge of communications said the poll body “completely brushed off” the coalition’s request for a meeting and instead repeatedly directed them to “generic FAQs” in response to queries.

“Your point blank refusal to even engage with political a matter of grave concern for all political parties and not just those who belong to the INDIA alliance,” Ramesh said in his letter.

On Friday, the Election Commission had dismissed Ramesh’s concerns about EVMs saying that there were “no new assertions or reasonable and legitimate doubts which require further clarifications”, reported The Hindu.

The Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance, or the INDIA bloc, is a coalition of 28 Opposition parties that plans to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

On December 19, the coalition had adopted a resolution seeking that 100% of voter verifiable paper audit trail, or VVPAT, slips be counted during polls. Currently, VVPAT slips from only five randomly selected polling stations in each Assembly segment are verified.

VVPAT slips are an independent verification system for electronic voting machines, allowing voters to check if their votes have been cast correctly. The system can help detect possible election fraud or malfunctioning of voting machines.

“I had made an express request for an appointment for the INDIA parties’ leaders with the honourable commission,” Ramesh wrote to the chief election commissioner, referring to an earlier letter he wrote to the Election Commission on December 30.

“I had even specified the agenda for the appointment discussion and suggestions on the usage of VVPAT slips for the upcoming elections,” he said. “The Election Commission’s response, while completely brushing aside our request for an appointment, has yet again failed to provide a substantive response to our queries and genuine concerns over EVMs.”

The Congress leader also pointed out that “there is no judicial order which restrains [the Election] Commission from meeting the INDIA Parties’ leaders” to discuss their concerns. “INDIA parties commanded over 60% of the popular vote in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Yet the commission continues to deny these parties an opportunity to meet with it,” he wrote.

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