Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu on Tuesday said the Election Commission has assured the Opposition leaders of looking into future discrepancies between voter verifiable paper audit trail machine and electronic voter machines. Naidu and other Opposition leaders told reporters that they met the Election Commission to ask the panel about what action will be taken after a discrepancy is found.
National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah, Communist Party of India leader D Raja and Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi were among the Opposition leaders who addressed the reporters after meeting the Election Commission about their “nitty-gritty demands” on the matter. Singhvi said the poll panel did not commit to their plea to increase the number of VVPAT machines.
The development follows the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear a review petition filed by 21 Opposition parties urging it to direct the Election Commission to cross-check at least 50% votes using Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail slips during the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. Singhvi said its meeting with the poll panel was not related to the Supreme Court’s denial of its plea.
Raja said the poll panel has promised to work out proper modalities if discrepancies are found. The CPI leader claimed that the Bharatiya Janata Party and the prime minister had undermined constitutional bodies including the Election Commission.
Meanwhile, Naidu said the poll panel should list the number of discrepancies found on its site. The Andhra Pradesh chief minister questioned the BJP’s criticism of the Opposition’s demand for transparency in the elections. “The BJP is saying all our demands are unreasonable. Why are you [BJP] supporting this type of manipulation,” Naidu said.
Naidu stressed that he would not give up his fight for a free and fair election, PTI reported. “We respect the Supreme Court’s order, but the [Telugu Desam Party] party will not give up and continue its fight for transparency in the election process in the country,” Naidu said. “In case of any discrepancy, voter verifiable paper audit trail slips should be matched with EVM results in the entire constituency.”
A delegation led by Naidu had urged the top court to review its order from last month that VVPAT slips be used to verify votes for five electronic voting machines in every constituency during the ongoing elections instead of just one. The court had said this practice would ensure the “greatest degree of accuracy, satisfaction” in the election process. The review plea claimed that the “increase from one to five was not a reasonable number”.
The Election Commission had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court saying that verification of 50% of votes would delay the announcement of results by six days. Votes will be counted on May 23.
The parties that approached the court include the Congress, Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party, Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party, the Aam Aadmi Party, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, Derek O’Brien for the Trinamool Congress, Farooq Abdullah for the National Conference, the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Rashtriya Lok Dal, Sharad Yadav’s Loktantrik Janata Dal, and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.
Opposition parties have raised doubts about the credibility of electronic voting machines several times in the last two years. However, the Election Commission has repeatedly denied allegations that the machines can be tampered with.