Oppn parties slam EC for rejecting demand to tweak VVPAT count; plea unconstitutional: Shah

PTI
Wednesday, 22 May 2019

The Opposition approached the EC on Tuesday to demand that the five random VVPATs in each Assembly segment should instead be counted first so that if there is a problem or a mismatch, the entire slips can be counted from the beginning itself

New Delhi:  A day ahead of the Lok Sabha poll vote count, opposition parties on Wednesday slammed the Election Commission for rejecting their demand to tweak the counting of voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) slips with the Congress calling it "Enfeebled Commission" while BJP chief Amit Shah termed their plea as unconstitutional. 

As the row over the Electronic Voting Machines(EVM) persisted and opposition workers at several places kept a tight vigil at strongrooms storing them, the EC decided to follow the established procedure of counting VVPAT slips for the mandatory five polling stations per assembly segment of each parliamentary constituency only at the end of the entire counting process. 

The Opposition approached the EC on Tuesday to demand that the five random VVPATs in each Assembly segment should instead be counted first so that if there is a problem or a mismatch, the entire slips can be counted from the beginning itself. 

Though the EC made it clear to the 22 opposition parties on Tuesday that the old protocol for counting the paper slips will continue, its top officials met on Wednesday and decided against making any last-minute changes to the way they are to be tallied. 

Counting of votes will be taken up on Thursday amid exit poll predictions that the BJP-led NDA will retain power. 

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the EC decision went against the "spirit" of a Supreme Court order. 

"If the process has been so long drawn for the sake of the integrity of the electoral process, why is (the) EC not adhering to the basic principle of testing the sample first?" the Left leader asked. 

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi asked whether the EC has made the EVMs "electronic victory machines" for the BJP and the model code of conduct as "Modi's Campaign Code", alleging it has succumbed to the pressures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah. 

"It is a black day for democracy and it is very sad and unfortunate for an institution like the Election Commission," he told reporters. 

The Telugu Desam Party(TDP) termed the EC decision as "a dark day for Indian democracy". 

"A genuine and fair demand for transparency is chucked out of the window without a reason. 

"A dark day for Indian democracy!"TDP general secretary Nara Lokesh said in a tweet, 

But Shah accused the Opposition of "disrespecting" people's mandate by raising doubts on the EVMs and said it is "tarnishing" Indian democracy as it is rattled by its "likely defeat" in the Lok Sabha elections. 

Slamming the opposition parties, he said in tweets that they started protesting against EVMs only after the sixth of the seven-phase polling and intensified it after exit polls. 

"How can you question EVMs credibility on the basis of exit polls?" he asked. 

He termed as unconstitutional the demand of the opposition parties that the EC change its counting protocol and count five random VVPATs first, saying any decision in this regard is not possible without an all-party consensus. 

Shah said the Supreme Court has given a final shape to the electoral process by hearing three PILs and asked if the opposition is raising questions on the apex court. 

Union Minister and BJP ally Ram Vilas Paswan called the opposition "sore losers" and claimed that their "desperation" over the VVPAT issue was an indication of their defeat in the elections. 

The ruling TRS in Telangana said it does not have doubts about the genuineness of the election results using EVMs with VVPATs. 

"We don't have that kind of doubt. Earlier, we had raised some doubts. But it was clarified time and again and proved right by the EC, whatever their version. After that, we are convinced," TRS MLC Palla Rajeshwara Reddy told PTI in Hyderabad. 

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