Opposition parties that had gathered in Kolkata for West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s United India rally on Saturday decided to set up a four-member committee to look into the Bharatiya Janata Party’s alleged manipulation of electoral voting machines, PTI reported.
The committee will suggest electoral reforms to the Election Commission ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, evaluate how the voting machines function and find ways to stop malpractices, Banerjee said.
Banerjee’s United India rally is being seen as an effort to unite the Opposition against the ruling BJP at the Centre ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. Leaders who attended the rally included former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, former Union minister Yashwant Sinha, current chief ministers Chandrababu Naidu, HD Kumaraswamy and Arvind Kejriwal, National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah, former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, and Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and Abhishek Manu Singhvi.
The four-member committee will comprise Kejriwal, Singhvi, Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party’s Satish Mishra, Banerjee announced after hosting a tea-party for leaders of 14 Opposition parties on Saturday evening.
“The EVM is ‘chor’ machine,” National Conference Chairman Farooq Abdullah had said earlier in the day while speaking at the rally. “Honestly speaking, it is so. Its use must be put to an end. Nowhere in the world is the machine used. The opposition parties should approach the Election Commission and the President of India to stop the use of the EVM and bring back the old ballot papers for the sake of transparency.”
“Time is short and hence we want [the] election panel to carry out reforms expeditiously for the sake of democracy in the country,” Abdullah added after the rally and the meeting with Banerjee. “Our Constitution is under threat. We want free and fair elections. We will never accept if election is held in fraudulent manner.”
“We are not asking for returning to the physical ballot system immediately,” Congress leader Singhvi said, adding that the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail system must be enforced to ensure there is proper verification of the ballots.
Modi went on a tirade against the purported alliance between Opposition parties known as the “mahagathbandhan” or “grand alliance” on Saturday. “My actions against corruption made some people angry as I prevented them from looting public money,” Modi said during his speech in Dadra and Nagar Haveli’s Silvassa. “They have formed the mahagathbandhan.”
Earlier in the day, BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy dismissed the rally in Kolkata as an “exercise by an anti-Modi front”. BJP leader Mukul Roy, who had quit the TMC to join the saffron party in 2017, described the Opposition meeting as a circus and said that all those parties who used to once abuse the Congress, have now come together.