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EC should consider paper ballots in place of EVMs: Congress

LiveMint logoLiveMint 03-04-2017 PTI

New Delhi: The Congress on Monday said the Election Commission is only the arbiter and not the controller of the democratic process and asked the poll body to introspect and explore possibility of shifting voting from electronic voting machines (EVMs) to the alternative system of paper ballots.

The opposition party also said that the EC should not be an advocate for EVMs and should conduct polls to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.

A major row erupted last week over a video of a VVPAT demonstration by a poll official in Madhya Pradesh where the machine attached to an EVM allegedly dispensed slips of only BJP as the opposition demanded reverting to the old ballot paper system of voting while scrapping use of EVMs. There have been demands from various parties over the efficacy of EVMs following the spectacular victory of BJP in Uttar Pradesh and of Congress in Punjab.

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“The Election Commission is at best the arbiter of the democratic process, it is not the controller of the democratic process...Ultimately democracy is based on public trust and if there is a feeling of widespread distrust in the electronic voting machines, the Election Commission rather than taking a succinct stand on it, should introspect,” Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari told reporters.

He said the fact that EVMs can be tampered with is something which has been demonstrated over and over again by different stakeholders, including BJP, Congress and others. Tewari said that democracy is based upon public trust and that people and all stakeholders must have trust that the instrument of exercising their franchise and the instrument of tabulating that franchise is something which is tamper-proof.

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“Now if that confidence is not there, the Election Commission does not require to become the advocate of the electronic voting machines. The Election Commission could very well turn around and say that if the stakeholders do not have confidence, yes we are ready to explore the possibility of shifting voting to the alternative system of paper ballots,” he said.

The Congress leader wondered how it bothered the EC that if rather than EVMs, the voting is done on paper ballots. He said “ultimately if the stakeholders, whether rightly or wrongly, are apprehensive that these machines are being tampered upon or are capable of being done so, there is no reason for Election Commission to be defensive about it”.

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Tewari said if the stakeholders of the democratic process are feeling apprehensive, whether rightly or wrongly, the Election Commission should walk the extra mile and voluntarily say that “alright if the stakeholders are not having confidence in this paradigm, we can have the next election on paper ballot. What is the difficulty with that?”

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