The West Bengal unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party raised doubts about electronic voting machines on Friday, a day after facing defeat in three Assembly bye-polls in the state, reported IANS. “Anything can be done with the EVMs,” said party National Secretary Rahul Sinha. “You can’t deny foul play of the ruling party in the counting.”
Sinha said the party will complain to the Election Commission about the state machinery openly helping the ruling Trinamool Congress. “TMC can do anything to win the elections,” he told IANS.
On Thursday, the Trinamool Congress won the bye-elections to Kaliaganj, Kharagpur Sadar and Karimpur Assembly seats. In Kaliaganj, the Trinamool Congress’ candidate Tapan Deb Singha defeated the BJP’s Kamal Chandra Sarkar by 2,414 votes. In Kharagpur Sadar, Trinamool candidate Pradip Sarkar defeated the BJP’s Prem Chandra Jha by 20,853 votes. In Karimpur, Bimalendu Sinha Roy defeated the BJP’s Jay Prakash Majumdar by 23,910 votes.
Kaliaganj and Kharagpur Sadar are part of Lok Sabha constituencies that the BJP had won in the General Elections earlier this year. “Still we lost in all the three seats?” Sinha asked. “TMC has won the Kharagpur Sadar seat for the first time. These all things raise doubts. Everywhere, from media to the public, it was being said that the BJP will win the bye-polls.”
The party’s state general secretary Raju Banerjee, however, argued it is not a 3-0 against the BJP and instead the party lost only one seat – Kharagpur Sadar. “The other two Assembly seats were never ours,” he said, according to The Telegraph. “It is Trinamool’s projection that they defeated us in all three. Karimpur in Nadia was Trinamool’s and Kaliaganj in North Dinajpur was a Congress seat.”
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday had claimed that the BJP was getting paid back for its “arrogance” and for “insulting” the people of the state. Banerjee called it a “victory of development” and voters’ rejection of the BJP. She claimed the Trinamool’s victory was in favour of secularism and unity, and a “mandate against NRC [National Register of Citizens]”.
The BJP has always made light of the Opposition parties’ concerns about the credibility of electronic voting machines. Two days before the counting day of the Lok Sabha election results in May, representatives of 22 Opposition parties met the Election Commission to reiterate their demand that Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail slips of randomly selected polling stations be verified before counting of votes. The Election Commission, however, refused to change the process of the counting.
On July 24, the BJP-led Centre had told the Lok Sabha that EVMs are “completely non-tamperable”. Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad quoted the Election Commission to make this claim. In August, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said that those alleging that EVMs can be tampered with were doing so with “criminal intent”.
BJP National President Amit Shah in May had said the Opposition had disrespected the public will by raising doubts about the reliability of EVMs. In June, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said the Congress insulted voters by questioning the veracity of the machines.