Just two days ahead of counting of votes, 22 Opposition parties on Tuesday demanded that VVPAT slips at randomly selected five polling booths should be counted first, and if any discrepancy occurs, then VVPAT slips should be tallied for the entire assembly segments.
The Election Commission (EC) said it would discuss the issue on Wednesday.
Leaders of these opposition parties, who held a meeting here on the issue and then jointly approached the EC, also raised concerns over reports about Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) being “replaced” at various places.
“All the VVPATs should be counted at the beginning. If there are any discrepancies, total VVPAT (voter verified paper audit trail) of the entire assembly segment should be counted,” Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu told reporters after meeting the EC officials.
Naidu, who has been spearheading the opposition’s campaign against the EVMs and to build a non-BJP front, asked what problem did the Commission have in implementing their suggestions.
“A former Chief Election Commissioner has made it clear that it is a duty of EC to keep transparency and create confidence among the voters. People’s mandate cannot be manipulated,” he said.
Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the suggestions of the Opposition parties were “no brainer” and they were a part of their memorandum submitted to the commission a month ago.
“In last one and a half months, we have raised these issues with other opposition parties. There is nothing to disagree. It is a small, simple measure, which is a confidence-building measure.
“They (EC) have assured us that they will meet tomorrow (Wednesday) and discuss our suggestions,” he said.
Singhvi said the EC did not have to change even a rule. “It is merely a change of guidelines, the procedures that you count first.”
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said the EC was apprised of reports about the replacement of EVMs.
“All political parties spoke about how EVMs were found in private vehicles near the strong rooms. Also, we told the officials how votes would go to the BJP when it was actually given to a candidate from the different party,” he said.
The opposition parties will decide the next course of their action if the EC refused to accept their demands, Naidu said.
The delegation also comprised of Nationalist Congress Party’s Praful Patel, DMK’s Kanimozhi, Trinamool Congress’ Derek O’Brien, Samajwadi Party’s Ram Gopal Yadav, Bahujan Samaj Party’s Satish Chandra Misra, Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Manoj Jha, Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitraram Yechury, Communist Party of India leader D. Raja and Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal.
Other parties that took part in the meeting were the Janata Dal-Secular, the Indian Union Muslim League, the Rashtriya Lok Dal, the Jharkhand Vikas Morch-Prajatantrik, the Loktantrik Janata Dal, the National Conference, the NPF, and the Hindustani Awami Morcha.
The memorandum submitted by the 22 parties represented “the voice of 70 per cent of the electorate in the country”, said Raja.
Asked about the exit polls showing the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) winning with a majority, Raja said the issue was not discussed at the meeting.
Singhvi, however, said the Congress disagreed with it citing “incorrect” prediction by pollsters in the past.