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Opposition meets President Pranab Mukherjee, alleges tampering of EVMs

LiveMint logoLiveMint 12-04-2017 Anuja & Gyan Varma

New Delhi: Allegations surrounding electronic voting machines (EVMs) took centre ground on the last day of Parliament’s budget session on Wednesday, with a united opposition taking their allegations of malfunctioning and tampering to the President even as the Election Commission (EC) stood by their reliability.

A day after they met EC officials, leaders from the main opposition parties—the Congress, Communist parties, Trinamool Congress, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham, Samajwadi Party and Nationalist Congress Party—met President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday with several allegations about the National Democratic Alliance government.

These included the EVM controversy, the ‘muzzling of voices of dissent’, avoiding legislative scrutiny, centralization of authority and continuing violence in Jammu and Kashmir.

ALSO READ : EVM row: 16 parties urge Election Commission to revert to paper ballots

“The recent cases of alleged tampering and malfunctioning of EVM machines, particularly in the recently concluded assembly elections, have raised bona fide concerns on the possibility of manipulating electoral outcomes...(EC) has agreed to call an all-party meeting in order to ensure that the transparency and fairness of the electoral process is upheld and citizens are reassured, of the integrity of the electoral process,” the representation given by opposition parties to Mukherjee said.

Meanwhile, EC threw an “open challenge” to political parties and technical experts to prove that the EVMs can either malfunction or be tampered with. “It is likely to be in the first week of May for nearly a week or 10 days but we are still working on the details. It is going to be on the same pattern as the one in 2009. We are going to invite political parties, scientists and tech experts,” a senior EC official said requesting anonymity.

The official said a similar exercise was carried out in 2009 when apprehensions over EVMs arose but no one could prove any malfunctioning.

As the EVM controversy gains momentum, a war of words has broken between the opposition parties and the government. “The entire opposition including Congress is united on this issue that something is wrong with the EVMs, which is why we went to the EC and mentioned it in our memorandum to the President,” Ghulam Nabi Azad, leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha and a senior Congressman told reporters on Wednesday.

Union minister M.Venkaiah Naidu has said that a “disinformation campaign” is being run by the opposition over the reliability of EVMs. “When NDA (National Democratic Alliance) wins, then blame the EVMs...The EC has already clarified on the issue,” he told reporters.

ALSO READ : Election Commission says even manufacturers can’t manipulate EVMs

Following allegations by the Bahujan Samaj Party after the UP assembly polls and Aam Aadmi Party after the Punjab elections, the EC maintained that EVMs are “robust, secure and tamper-proof.”

In the meeting with Mukherjee on Wednesday, the opposition parties also alleged that the government was being arbitrary in decision-making and on appointments to key constitutional positions and that there is a “prevailing environment of fear and insecurity in the country”. The delegation was led by Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh.

Meanwhile, Union parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar said that the just concluded budget session was one of the most productive sessions in its history. “I think this was one of the most productive budget sessions and it will go down as the golden chapter in Parliament’s history,” Kumar told reporters.

According to Kumar, productivity of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha during the budget session was 114% and 92%, respectively and that a total of 23 bills were passed in the Lok Sabha and 14 in Rajya Sabha.

PTI contributed to the story.

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