Press Trust of india

Oppn leaders meet, move EC seeking VVPAT verification with EVMs

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New Delhi, May 21 (PTI) The leaders of 22 opposition parties met the Election Commission on Tuesday ahead of the Lok Sabha election results and asked it to ensure transparency and fairness in the counting process by verifying EVM results with VVPATs.

The opposition leaders, including from the Congress, the DMK, the TDP and the BSP, submitted a memorandum to the poll panel, demanding the tallying of votes of electronic voting machines with a paper trail of votes (VVPATs) of five randomly identified polling booths in an assembly segment before counting begins on Thursday.

Before meeting the poll panel, the leaders met at the Constitution Club to discuss the current political situation and the need for fairness in the counting process.

They held talks after meeting the Election Commission as well and decided they would be in constant touch with each other on counting day and after that too to discuss possibilities of forming a coalition government, an opposition leader told PTI.

"It is requested that the verification of VVPAT slips of randomly identified (05) polling stations should be done prior to the initiation of counting of votes and not after the completion of last round of counting.

"If any discrepancy is found anywhere during the VVPAT verification, 100% counting of paper slips of VVPATs of all polling stations of that assembly segment should be done," the memorandum to the Election Commission stated.

The meeting came on a day the Supreme Court dismissed a PIL seeking 100 per cent matching of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips with EVMs.

Demanding fairness in elections, the leaders of the 22 parties who signed the memorandum said they represent the voice of 70 per cent of the electorate of the country.

They said they reached out to the Election Commission in January 2019 to increase  VVPAT slips counting to 100 per cent or revert to the old paper ballot system.

"We told the EC that VVPAT machines should be counted first and if there is any discrepancy, then all of them in that segment should be counted," Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad told reporters here after meeting the poll panel.

The poll body has now said it will meet on Wednesday to discuss the issue, added Azad's party colleague Abhishek Singhvi.

"We are asking the EC to respect the mandate of people. It cannot be manipulated," Telugu Desam Party's N Chandrababu Naidu told reporters.

Alleging large-scale EVM bungling in Uttar Pradesh, Bahujan Samaj Party leader Satish Chandra Mishra demanded the deployment of central forces.

The opposition parties also raised concerns over the transportation of EVMs ahead of counting of votes and urged the Election Commission to probe the issue.

The opposition parties said they are seeking transparency and fairness in the counting of votes and respecting the mandate of the people of the country.

Those who attended the meeting included Congress' Azad, Singhvi, Ahmed Patel and Ashok Gehlot, SP's Ram Gopal Yadav (SP), CPI-M's Sitaram Yechuri and T K Rangarajan, AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal (AAP),  NCP's Praful Patel and Majeed Memon (NCP) and DMK's K Kanimozhi.

Trinamool Congress' Derek O'Brien, RJD's Manoj Jha, CPI's S Sudhakar Reddy and D Raja, LJD's Javed Razawa, NC's Devender Rana and JD-S' Kupendra Reddy were also among those present.

"On VVPATs and the EVM tally, the EC is yet to come out with a procedure in case there is a mismatch. Even if there is one mismatch in the VVPAT samples picked for counting and EVMs, to maintain the integrity of the electoral process, all VVPATs in that Assembly segment must be counted," Yechury said after the meeting.

NCP's Majid Memon said the parties are demanding that "there should be fairness in the counting of votes".

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