On Thursday, a number of opposition parties gathered at the house of Sharad Pawar, the leader of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), to discuss claims of manipulation of the electronic voting machines (EVMs) during elections. They stated their intention to bring the matter to the attention of the Election Commission. The gathering which included various political parties such as Congress, CPI, CPI (M), Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Janata Dal (United), and Shiv Sena, went on for more than an hour. Trinamool Congress (TMC), who received an invitation from the NCP chief, decided not to attend the meeting as per the media report.
“A meeting of the opposition leaders was held at my residence today to discuss the efficacy of EVM and the concerns raised by political parties about voting through EVM,” Pawar tweeted.
Kapil Sibal, a former leader of the Congress party who was present at the meeting, expressed his belief that any machine can be tempered. He also emphasized that their concerns are not just limited to the machine’s ability to function independently, as the internet is also involved in its programming. Sibal further added that they will have to decide on a course of action since they do not anticipate receiving any satisfactory explanations.
According to D Raja, CPI general secretary, it was agreed upon by all parties that the credibility of EVMs is being questioned through multiple queries. “It is necessary for us to obtain an appropriate reaction from the Election Commission. After receiving a response from the poll body, we will evaluate it and determine our subsequent steps,” he said.
During the meeting, Raja mentioned briefly that Rahul Gandhi has been convicted in a defamation case by a Gujarat court earlier that day, but there was no in-depth discussion on the topic. Sibal stated that the leaders had solely deliberated on the legislation related to the particular instance. The meeting is taking place while some of these groups are trying to come together and bring additional seats for the General Elections in 2024. On Thursday, Mamata Banerjee, who is an influential member of this group, had a meeting with Naveen Patnaik, the Chief Minister of Odisha, and she has planned to meet HD Kumaraswamy, the former chief minister of Karnataka, on Friday.
Opposition parties have been disputing the use of EVMs. They have accused the machines of being manipulated during past elections, but there is currently no evidence to support their claims. The Election Commission of India (ECI) has said that the voting machines are secure and transported safely for the purpose of voting. The Election Commission challenged political parties in 2017 to provide evidence supporting their claims against the devices used in elections. However, none of the parties was able to substantiate their allegations, which led the commission to reject the idea of reverting to the paper ballot system.
The ECI has restated that in all elections, the voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) will be utilized in conjunction with electronic voting machines (EVM) to guarantee openness. The VVPAT produces a paper receipt that records the candidate’s name and symbol that the voter has chosen.