Non-BJP parties likely to jointly ask EC for paper ballot in 2019

An array of politicial parties, including BJP allies Shiv Sena and BJD, are likely to write to the Election Commission to ask for the next general election to be conducted using ballot paper, media reported.

The parties include opposition outfits like the Indian National Congress, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, CPI(M) and Rashtriya Janata Dal, as well as constituents of the ruling National Democratic Alliance such as Shiv Sena and Biju Janata Dal, as well as Telugu Desam Party.

The plans for such a move were finalized in talks held by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee during her visit to Delhi yesterday, NDTV 24*7 reported.

India is one of the few countries where elections are held using electronic voting machines.

Parties have expressed concerns about the non-transparent nature of the EVMs, which store the vote in the form of electronic charges that can be manipulated using the right software and access to the EVMs themselves.

To prevent manipulation of results, EVMs are stored in the so-called ‘strong rooms’ and guarded round the clock by central police forces.

However, many IT experts and activists have demonstrated the possibility of preprograming the devices so that they would automatically overwrite the actual results with a pre-provided set of results when they are stowed away for counting.

Unlike other countries, India counts its votes days, or even weeks after they have been collected on the machines.

Among the most vociferous opponents of EVMs has been BJP politician and activist Subramanian Swamy, who even went to the extent of filing a case in the Supreme Court against their use.

In response to Swamy’s petition, the Supreme Court directed the Election Commission in 2013 to use a hybrid EVM+paper format, in which votes would be collected both on machines as well as paper.

In case of a dispute, the paper votes would be counted.

The system, called VVPAT or Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail, is yet to be implemented on a large scale.

Last year, parties again approached the Supreme Court asking for the implementation of the earlier order on using paper to create a back-up record of voting. Appearing for the petitioners, Congress leader and lawyer P Chidambaram alleged that the government is not releasing funds for the creation of the VVPAT system.