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The Congress today demanded that the EC revert to the old system of paper ballots till the time all EVMs were linked to VVPAT machines providing paper trail of votes and quoted a Supreme Court verdict in this regard. Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi's remarks that the opposition "fabricated" the issue of alleged EVM tampering and instead accused the government of not being interested in having voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines or giving the Election Commission money to buy them. Citing the 15-page Supreme Court verdict of October 8, 2013 in the matter of Subramanian Swamy versus Union of India, he also accused the government of violating the judgement. "Today there is no answer, only stunning silence is the answer by the prime minister. There is no answer to a simple question that till such time you fulfill the Supreme Court mandate, why don't you have paper ballot. "Otherwise, instantly give Rs 3,000 to the Election Commission and within a few months have VVPAT for each EVM.
There is no answer to either of these basic points," he told reporters. Singhvi said the problem is that for some reason this government is disinterested in having either a VVPAT or in giving money to the EC to get VVPATs. The Congress leader read out the Supreme Court verdict that states that paper trail of votes is indispensable and it is only with the introduction of paper trail that EVM would be a confidence measure of voter and it is necessary for fullest transparency. "It leaves us with very cogent, serious, logical, deep, strong and fundamental objections questioning the very efficacy and purity of our electoral process and, therefore, for the world's largest democracy. "Why should the government treat it as an adversarial issue? Why is it not possible to revert to paper ballot at least till such time you give one VVPAT accompanying one EVM? At least till that time, the paper ballot is tried, tested and age old method," he said, adding that there is no reason given "except persistence and except perhaps a vested interest". He said 30 months on, there are only 58,000 machines with VVPAT against the total of 16 lakh EVMs. "At the current rate, it will take nearly 150 years to have VVPAT in all constituencies in India. If the SC says that paper trail is important, then till there is VVPAT in EVMs, should we not go back to a paper ballot?" he asked. He also said that while 50 countries across the world tried EVMs, not a single country carried it forward and out of eight which pursued EVMs use actively six of them have reverted to the old paper ballot system. "Only one nation, South Africa, apart from India continues to use EVMs," he said, adding that even the BJP and its senior party leaders L K Advani have raised doubts over their efficacy. Singhvi also quoted a 2010 study of University of Michigan, USA, that stated that "India's EVMs do not provide transparency. So voters and election officials have no reason to be confident". The Congress spokesperson said the Prime Minister said in Bhubaneshwar that there are many fabricated issues and one of them he raised was the EVM issue. "I would respectfully remind the prime minister and the ruling party that they are rightfully scared and fearful because fabrication and manipulation may lie somewhere else and that is why they want to bury this issue deep," he said. He said as a responsible and sober party, the Congress has raised the issue through media before the general public. Asked if Congress would boycott elections in case the government did not meet its demand of VVPATs, Singhvi said he would not at all suggest that at this stage. "You are going far ahead of the story. At the moment, there is absolutely no reason for reasonable, balanced, right thinking people, who value democracy, to not agree to our most reasonable demand and therefore, let us not speculate," he said.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)