Amid concerns over possibility of EVM tampering, members in the Rajya Sabha today sought the use of voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines and called for bold electoral reforms like state funding of polls and audit of election spending by political parties. Participating in a short duration debate on electoral reforms, members also expressed grave concern over exorbitant expenses incurred by some parties in hiring aircraft and helicopters for campaigning. “Election Commission (EC) has send 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.
The paper-trail machine gives a receipt to the voter verifying the vote and the candidate in whose favour the button has been pressed on the electronic voting machine(EVM).
Azad said there were doubts on the EVM system, especially when developed countries like United Kingdom, Germany and Italy, were not using it.
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When some BJP MPs intervened and asked whether elections can be conducted again without EVMs in Punjab, Azad replied “We are ready. But you should also conduct election in Uttar Pradesh again in that case.”
Azad told the House that the Supreme Court had ordered the use of VVPAT machines in October 2013 and the expenditure on this was estimated at Rs 3,100 crore then. “You have been holding it. If you start acting now, you would be able to do it by the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.”
He also drew attention towards the “exorbitant” expenditure by some political parties like use of helicopters and aircraft during elections, breaching the spending limit.
Initiating the debate, Mukul Roy (AITC) said there should be an audit of expenditure during polls on public meetings or air transportation by the political parties, which should be tabled in the House.
Roy also demanded state funding for political parties for contesting elections, saying without state funding, only the big and resourceful parties would be able to contest polls.
Bhupender Yadav (BJP) 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.