The Lok Sabha election is being held in seven phases. So far, voting for five phases is over. The counting of votes will be on May 23.
A delegation of 22 opposition parties, led by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, on Tuesday approached the Election Commission requesting for verification of all Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPATs) in an assembly segment if discrepancy is found in counting of VVPAT slips of five random machines. The delegation met the EC immediately after the Supreme Court dismissed a plea by opposition parties to review its judgment rejecting 50 per cent random physical verification of EVMs using VVPATs.
The delegation also demanded that the EC “suo motu” increase the physical counting of VVPAT slips with Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) vote count in order to restore voters’ confidence, credibility, transparency and robustness of institutional mechanism of counting process. The Supreme Court has directed the EC to count VVPAT slips of five random EVMs in each assembly segment. Senior Congress leaders Ahmed Patel and Abhishek M Singhvi as well as National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, CPI parliamentarian D Raja and AAP MP Sanjay Singh were among other leaders present in the meeting.
“After the SC dismissed our petition, we came to the EC and requested it clearly that if any discrepancy is found in five VVPATs then what action it should take. Some of the booths are manipulated. Our demand is clear that all VVPATs in the entire assembly segment should be verified,” Naidu told reporters after the meeting. Naidu said the delegation told the EC that it is possible to count 50 per cent of VVPAT slips easily. “There are 14 tables in every counting hall for an assembly constituency. Therefore the amount of time and energy in which slips from one VVPAT machine can be supervised by returning officer and observer is same for 14 VVPAT machines. “Therefore slips from at least 70 VVPAT machines can be counted in the same time. If they are counting 5 VVPATs, then they can count 70 VVPATs at a time,” he said.
The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief said that the EC has been requested to honour the demand of a candidate for recounting. The delegation not only urged the EC to come out with revised guidelines in this regard at the earliest, but also asked it to investigate and publish on its website all cases of discrepancies found during the counting process. “Want to ask the BJP if our demands are unreasonable? You want to manipulate and bulldoze. Why you are siding with this type of malpractice? We are asking for transparency. You want to go for non-transparency and get away, that is not possible,” Naidu said. Elaborating more on the demand to increase the physical counting of VVPAT slips, Singhvi said: “The EC has powers to increase the Supreme Court’s order of five per cent. The EC has agreed on this issue.”
He said, “There is no connection between the SC dismissal and our demands today. First of all, the SC dismissal does not prevent the EC to suo motu to increase the percentage of counting. We have very strongly asked the EC to increase it to either 10 per cent or 15 per cent or 25 per cent.” The EC has assured that it will look into each of its demands and into the nitty-gritty of how the VVPATs can be made more bigger confidence building measure, he said. CPI leader D Raja said the EC in the meeting has assured that it will abide by the procedure even if it delays announcement of the election results.
“All political parties have asked the EC not to restrict its powers. If it can address the issue with open mind, it can decide on verification of VVPATs instead of 5 per cent it can go up to 15 per cent,” he added. The Lok Sabha election is being held in seven phases. So far, voting for five phases is over. The counting of votes will be on May 23.