NEW DELHI: During a discussion on electoral reforms in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, Opposition parties on Wednesday cited BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao book that questioned the credibility of the EVMs and party MP Subramanian Swamy’s petition in Supreme Court that an order for voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) in the EVMs to take on the Government over its failure in implementing the apex court order.
Opposition MPs from across the political spectrum demanded the use of VVPAT-enabled Electronic Voting Machines to avoid the possibility of tampering.
Participating in a short duration debate on electoral reforms, the Opposition also demanded bold electoral reforms including state funding of polls, audit of election spending by political parties and regulating the Media in the private sector to give a fair play to the smaller parties.
The MPs expressed grave concern over exorbitant spending by some parties for hiring aircraft and helicopters for poll campaigning.
"Election Commission (EC) has sent 11 letters to government and one SOS (save our soul) message to the Prime Minister about the use of these paper trail machines. Since the Government has not responded to the EC's communique, the people are doubting the intention of the government," Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said.
Azad’s charge was also backed by other parties including SP and BSP.
The paper-trail EVMs provide a receipt to the voter verifying the vote and the candidate in whose favour the button has been pressed on the EVM. The paper trail is estimated to minimise the risk of tampering.
There were doubts on the use of EVMs as even developed countries like United Kingdom, Germany and Italy are not using such machines, Azad said.
Prof Ram Gopal Yadav of Samajwadi Party cited Rao’s book Democracy at Risk to raise questions over the credibility of the EVMs.
BSP’s Satish Chandra Mishra also referred to the Rao’s book and Swamy’s petition for questioning the usage of EVMs. Mishra demanded proportional representation and creation of vacancy of a seat after a member defects from the party from which he/she fought the elections.
Mishra further said there are chances of tampering the machines as chips can be made to vote for a particular party or symbol contradicting the voters’ choice.
JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav said, "There is a question mark on EVMs today. Mayawatiji has claimed that EVMs were responsible for her defeat... We must set up an inquiry committee on this."
After the drubbing received by the BSP in UP elections, BSP chief Mayawati had accused the BJP of murdering democracy and said tampering of EVMs was responsible for her party's defeat.
The JD(U) leader said a four-time Chief Minister has raised this issue and it needs to be addressed seriously. "If we do not address her concern, it is not good for democracy."
Stating that contesting election has become an expensive affair, he said so much expenditure is incurred that in future "people like (Ram Manohar) Lohia and Atal Bihari Vajpayee would not come to Parliament".
"This phase is dangerous to democracy," he said and shared that that the ruling party had used 70-80 helicopters during the recent assembly elections.
Trinamool Congress MP Mukul Roy said there should be an audit of expenditure during polls on public meetings or use of helicopters and aircraft by the political leaders and the same should be tabled in the House.
Roy also demanded state funding for political parties for contesting elections as in the absence of such a system only the major and resourceful parties would be able to contest polls.
BJP MP Bhupender Yadav said, "We need to think about simultaneous (Lok Sabha and Assembly) elections. A state remains affected for more than a year due of various elections and the model code of conduct." He also stressed the need to move towards e-voting.