New Delhi: The Election Commission has shot down 22 political parties’ demand that VVPAT slips be matched with data from EVMs ahead of the counting for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Sources in the EC said it is sticking to an earlier decision to first complete counting of votes polled in all EVMs and then only randomly select five EVMs in each Assembly segment for tallying the paper slips. They said the exercise was aimed at verifying the authenticity of the votes polled in the EVMs; and the verification can be done only after the EVM votes are put on record on paper.
The Congress immediately dubbed the EC as “Enfeebled Commission” and said it was a “black day” for democracy. ‘‘Has the Model Code of Conduct become ‘Modi’s campaign code’ and EVMs ‘electronic victory machines’ for the BJP? Has the Election Commission become
‘Enfeebled Commission’ or is it ‘Eradicated Commission’ or ‘Eliminated Commission,’ as it has succumbed to the pressure of PM and Amit Shah,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said. The sources said complete results could not be expected before Thursday night in view of the time that will be taken to count the paper slips and some results may spill over even to Friday.
They said the EC has already decided to take the VVPAT count as final, if there is any discrepancy in the EVM count. There was, however, no word from the commission on the opposition parties’ demand for counting VVPAT slips in the entire Assembly segment, if discrepancy is found even in one booth.
Sources said tallying of 100% votes from all VVPATs in an Assembly segment is impractical. The Election Commission had told the parties on Tuesday that it will take the decision on their demands on Wednesday. The demand was rejected in the meeting attended by all the three commissioners.
The Election Commission also brushed off the opposition parties” concern over the movement of the EVMs days after polling was over in states like Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Haryana, asserting that they are unused machines which do not affect the counting.
EC sources, however, admitted transportation of the unused machines in violation of the rules and said action is being taken against the concerned officials, as both used and unused EVMs are supposed to be simultaneously put in the strong rooms.
CPM leader Sitaram Yechuri tweeted that the EC refusing to count the selected VVPATs first may lead to a law and order problem. “Integrity of EVMs by matching sample VVPATs has to be done at the start of the counting. Doing so after the trends are declared makes it infructuous and is likely to lead to protests and a possible law and order situation,” Yechuri tweeted.
He added: “This (EC order) goes against the spirit of the Supreme Court Order on VVPATs delivered before polling began. If the process has been so long drawn for the sake of integrity of the electoral process, why is EC not adhering to the basic principle of testing the sample first?”