Mumbai, Aug 2 (IANS) All Maharashtra Opposition parties on Friday unanimously demanded a ban on the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and a return to the ballot paper voting for the upcoming Maharashtra Assembly elections.
Addressing a joint press conference here top leaders of the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and other smaller parties alleged that there were many discrepancies in the EVMs in the last Lok Sabha elections which have raised serious doubts in the minds of the people.
In the interest of bringing in transparency to the peoples' mandate, it was imperative to bring back the ballot paper system of voting, the leaders added.
However, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who is on a state-wide 'Mahajanadesh Yatra', hit out at the Opposition parties for their demand and asked them to "introspect" instead of attacking EVMs.
The Opposition parties also announced a massive peoples' procession on August 21 in support of their demand to the Election Commission of India (ECI).
Congress state President Balasaheb Thorat said the results of the last Lok Sabha elections were shocking and the anti-EVM agitation was to bring back honesty and transparency in the electoral process.
Former deputy chief minister and NCP leader Ajit Pawar said developed countries in the world had stopped using EVMs and returned to ballot paper voting, and so should India.
"Let the people decide whom to vote for and let them know whom they have actually voted for without having any doubt in their minds. But this is not so in the case of the EVMs. Even the common masses and the NGOs are making the same demands," Pawar said.
MNS President Raj Thackeray said "US-made chips are used in the Indian EVMs" but even the US President has expressed reservations over the EVMs.
"On August 21, people will fill up forms opposing EVM, which will be submitted to the Maharashtra State Election Commission. We have appealed to the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiv Sena to also join the anti-EVM movement in the interest of democracy," Thackeray said.
Another NCP leader and ex-deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal said that the election process must remain "completely transparent, but to ensure this, return to ballot paper was imperative".
"When advanced democracies like the US and Japan have discarded this technology, why must we stick to it? People have lost faith in EVMs, so it must be changed," Bhujbal urged.
Swabhiman Shetkari Sanghatana President Raju Shetti said that a return to the ballot paper was imperative for bringing total transparency in the electoral process.
"We appeal to all village panchayats to pass a resolution on August 15 for banning EVMs and reintroducing the ballot paper system," Shetti said.
Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) leader and retired Bombay High Court judge Justice B.G. Kolse-Patil said people have lost faith in the EVMs and "we shall boycott it in the elections".
Others, including Brigadier (Rtd) Sudhir Sawant, Communist Party of India (CPI) leader Prakash Reddy, Peasants and Workers Party Chief Jayant Patil, said ballot papers must be brought back to "save democracy".
Lashing out at the demand, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in Wardha said that it would be better if the Opposition parties introspect and accept their loss (in the polls) instead of blaming EVMs.
"Instead of launching agitations targeting EVMs, the Opposition must dwell on their performance, accept the realities, and go back to the people to get their sympathy," Fadnavis said dismissively.
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