Days before the counting of votes on Thursday (May 23) for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, leaders of 22 Opposition parties approached the Election Commission (EC) on Tuesday, asking it to ensure transparency and fairness in the counting process by verifying electronic voting machine (EVM) results with voter-verified paper audit trails (VVPATs).
They demanded that the EC carry out verification of VVPAT slips of five randomly identified polling stations prior to the initiation of counting of votes and not after the completion of last round of counting. “If any discrepancy is found anywhere during the VVPAT verification, 100 per cent counting of paper slips of VVPATs of all polling stations of that Assembly segment should be done,” the memorandum to the EC stated.
A day after former President of India Pranab Mukherjee lauded the EC for conducting the elections perfectly, he appealed to the commission to allay speculation on the issue. In a statement, Mukherjee expressed his concern over allegations of tampering of EVMs. “I am concerned at reports of alleged tampering of voters’ verdict. The safety and security of EVMs, which are in the custody of the EC, is the responsibility of the commission,” he said.
The former President said the people’s mandate is sacrosanct and has to be above any iota of reasonable doubt. “The onus of ensuring institutional integrity in this case lies with the EC. They must do so and put all speculation to rest,” he said.
In a reference possibly to the EC officials, Mukherjee said as a firm believer in the country’s institutions, it is his considered opinion that the ‘workmen’ decide how the institutional ‘tools’ perform. Social media on Tuesday was abuzz with video clips of ostensibly unattended EVMs making their way to strong rooms. The EC said the allegations were ‘frivolous’ and ‘unfounded’. A delegation of Opposition leaders submitted a memorandum to the EC demanding the tallying of votes of EVMs with a paper trail of votes of five randomly identified polling booths in an Assembly segment before counting begins on Thursday.
The Opposition leaders met at the national Capital’s Constitution Club before approaching the EC. Opposition leaders said they would be in constant touch with each other on counting day and after that to discuss possibilities of forming a coalition government. The poll panel has now said it will meet on Wednesday to discuss the issue, Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said. The Opposition parties also raised concerns over the transportation of EVMs ahead of counting of votes and urged the EC to probe the issue.
Those who attended the meeting included Congress’ Ghulam Nabi Azad, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Ahmed Patel, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Samajwadi Party’s Ram Gopal Yadav, Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s Sitaram Yechury and T K Rangarajan, Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal, Nationalist Congress Party’s Praful Patel and Majeed Memon, and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s K Kanimozhi. Trinamool Congress’ Derek O’Brien, Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Manoj Jha, CPI’s S Sudhakar Reddy and D Raja, Loktantrik Janata Dal’s Javed Razawa, National Conference’s Devender Rana, and Janata Dal (Secular)’s Kupendra Reddy were also present.