Congress says 70 percent parties telling EC to revert to ballot paper voting, raises concern over electoral bonds

New Delhi: The Congress said on Monday that over 70 per cent of political parties have put forth a demand before the Election Commission for reverting to the old voting system of ballot paper.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said the demand has been made since there are doubts on the credibility of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and asked the EC to reintroduce ballot papers from the next election. “Around 70 per cent political parties have demanded that the EC revert to the old system of ballot paper during elections,” he told reporters. The Nationalist Congress Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party, Aam Aadmi Party, Janata Dal (S), Communist Party of India, CPI-M and Forward Bloc that supported the move.

Seven recognised national parties and 51 recognised state political parties were invited for the meeting. Out of the total 58 parties, 41 attended it. Singhvi said the Congress’ stand was given in writing to the Election Commission (EC) many weeks ago and it has been reiterated today for the second time. He suggested that alternatively there should be 30 per cent cross-checking of EVMs with paper trail of votes to ensure integrity of electoral process.

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“Our demand remains undiluted that there should be reversion to paper ballot which is the demand of other political across the spectrum,” he said, claiming that the BJP was “singled out” on the issue. Singhvi said if the EC does not agree to revert to paper ballot, then it should adhere to the suggestion that in at least 30 per cent of the polling booths there should be paper trail of EVMs to check the authenticity of votes cast. The Congress has demanded that ceiling be imposed on the expenditure by political parties during poll campaign, Singhvi said.

Currently, there is a limit on poll expenses by a candidate in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies but there is no limit on the expenses made by a political party during elections. “Unregulated party expenditure is a dangerous proposition… There should be a ceiling on the expenditure by political parties,” he said. Singhvi said the party has opposed the electoral bonds, terming them as a “fraud”. “The electoral bonds are yet another fraud (committed) on the nation… This is not a new stand. You are in fact legitimising anonymity; you are in fact legitimising large sums of money without even the scrutiny which happens today.

“You are actually making it much worse… You are in fact legitimising humongous amounts of donation without revealing the name of the donor,” he said.  Singhvi said political transparency is the need of the hour and full identity disclosure of purchasers of electoral bonds is a necessary change that needs to be effected forthwith. The present anonymity associated with electoral bonds needs to be remedied since this will not only assure anonymity to donors but will also kill whatever little transparency exists now, the party has said.

The opposition party has demanded weeding out of all duplicate and false voters from the voters list to ensure a free and fair election. The party has alleged that there are 60 lakh duplicate names in the voters list for Madhya Pradesh and another 45 lakh for Rajasthan. Both the states go to polls later this year. “These are shocking discoveries going to the root of the electoral process at the pre-declaration stage and suffice it to state that the numbers are significant enough to alter and distort the outcome of the electoral process. Backbone of democracy are free and fair elections and credible voter list is the first test.

“It goes without saying that the integrity of the electoral process will be severely compromised if proper physical verification is not conducted and so many bogus voters are allowed to persist on the rolls,” he said. The Congress said this is a national issue affecting all political parties and therefore strict compliance is necessary. The party has said that a comprehensive verification of voters must be carried out, preferably door-to-door, before the 2019 general elections as well an action plan to deal with the same must be prepared by the EC. The Congress leader also said print media has been excluded from the ambit of section 126, resulting in a regulatory anomaly, as parties continue to give interviews and publicity through print media even though EC bans any campaign 48 hours before the polling.


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