Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu said on Sunday that his ongoing fight with the Election Commission for replacing EVMs with ballot papers is to protect democracy in India. Naidu, also the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief, claimed that only 18 out of 191 countries were using Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) for conducting polls.
Naidu was speaking at a meeting organised by opposition parties at Constitution Club of India on the topic 'Save democracy - Transparency in election process and protection of voters rights'.
Reiterating that the machines can be manipulated, he alleged that technology was misused during the Telangana elections to delete 25 lakh votes and when this was pointed out to the poll officials, they merely said "sorry".
Claiming that the services of contract employees were used for the maintenance of EVMs, he asked the Election Commission if it would own responsibility for their errors. Naidu also alleged that there was a chance of tampering EVMs by managing the micro controller and chips.
"The Election Commission lost credibility with the non-functioning of EVMs at majority of places in Andhra Pradesh," Naidu said, claiming that around 20 to 30 per cent EVMs did not function during the elections to the Andhra Pradesh Assembly and the state's 25 Lok Sabha seats on April 11.
He said the BJP government failed to honour the demand of opposition parties to reintroduce the ballot system, and also accused the Modi government of harassing opposition leaders through Income Tax and Enforcement Directorate raids.
The Chief Minister also said that the Election Commission transferred officials in Andhra Pradesh without the consent of the state.
‘Review petition for transparent polls’
Meanwhile, addressing the media in New Delhi, leaders from 21 political parties, including TDP, said the Election Commission had "failed" the country and its people as it did not take these issues seriously. Demanding transparency in the conduct of the elections, the leaders on Sunday decided to file a review petition in the Supreme Court for counting of VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) slips.
The parties had earlier filed a petition with the SC demanding 50% counting of VVPATs and seeking clarification on the mechanism to proceed further if there is a discrepancy between the votes counted and the VVPAT slips. On April 8, the SC then directed the ECI to increase the random matching of the VVPAT slips with the EVMs to five polling booths per assembly segment, from one at present.
Challenging the decision of ECI to verify VVPAT of only one randomly chosen booth of a constituency, leaders filed a review petition to verify at least 50 per cent votes using VVPAT. The Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice on the petition. The bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, has asked the ECI to respond on March 25.
Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said, “Names of lakhs of voters have been deleted online without physical verification. Parties have given long lists to the EC. It has become even more necessary to count at least 50 per cent of paper trail of VVPAT. We will demand the same in the Supreme Court. The Commission is not paying heed to our demand for transparency. Hence, we have no other option but to approach the Supreme Court," he said.