Several Opposition parties on Monday, 16 January, questioned the need for the Election Commission of India's proposal of remote EVMs (RVMs) to enable domestic migrants to vote remotely in the elections being held in their home states or constituencies.
The poll body, on Monday, demonstrated the functioning of the RVMs and gave the parties an overview of the process. The opposition parties, however, cited anomalies in the process proposed by the poll body.
What the Congress said: After attending the EC's demonstration on Monday, Congress leader Digvijay Singh said that the poll body should instead address the issue of urban apathy towards the voting process.
"No opposition party wants to see the demonstration of a remote voting machine. First the issue of the need to have such a machine should be settled," Digvijay Singh said. Further calling the idea itself of remote voting "unacceptable", he said that there would be no RVM demonstration till there is a consensus (by political parties) on having one.
"Between the note given by the Election Commission and the presentation given to us, they are confused. When there is no survey on any migrant labourers, how are they are providing facilities to the migrant labourers?" he asked.
"There are suspicions on the efficacy of EVM machines. If devices with chips can be hacked and money can be stolen from banks, what are EVMs?" he further said, adding that "no developed country with democratic values has an EVM machine," he added.
What the AAP said: After the session, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MP Sanjay Singh raised several questions over the process while speaking to the media
"Why don't you declare public holidays on polling day? Why don't you make public transport for voters free during elections? Secondly, the vote share of India in the 2019 elections was over 67%. This was more than the US, the UK, Sweden, Germany, France, Italy, and Switzerland; it was more than what most developed nations witness. If there is polling in Jalandhar, will you impose a code of conduct at every place across the country where there are Jalandhar voters? How will smaller political parties with limited financial means campaign there?" Sanjay Singh asked.
He further asked how will polling agents and party's booth representatives be assigned at the remote polling booths, adding that all parties have raised concerns of possible rigging in the remote voting process.
"No clear number of the 'migrants' has been clarified by the EC. They only said that 30 crore people are unable to participate in the process. This is worrisome, but it also means so many educated people just don't vote. Why don't they first find out reasons behind that phenomenon?" he added.
What the BJP said: Sanjay Singh said that the Bharatiya Janata Party supported EC's proposal but also agreed to get all parties on board before taking any decision.
The EC also assured that consensus of all parties is necessary for the proposal to move ahead, he said.
Consensus to oppose was formed on Sunday: Most opposition parties, including the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the J&K national Conference (JKNC), Shiv Sena, Left parties, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Janata Dal United (JDU), Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), the Revolutionary Socialist Party, and independent MP Kapil Sibal opposed the proposal in a meeting held on Sunday.
Citing political anomalies, Digvijay Singh on Sunday said that the definition of migrants and their numbers is still unclear. Similar concerns were raised by RJD leader Manoj Kumar Jha, who was also present in the session held by the EC on Monday.
Jha on Sunday questioned the credibility of the 30 crore figure of domestic migrants cited by EC, saying that the Parliament had stated during the pandemic that no such data has officially been recorded. NCP supremo Sharad Pawar too said that a decision on the proposal must be taken by "all parties together."
In a joint statement, the 16 parties that attended Sunday's meeting said: "It was decided that the ECI's response to the questions raised by the parties in tomorrow's meeting will collectively be considered later and the opposition parties will take a joint stand on the issue."
The opposition parties will hold another meeting on 25 January over the response to be given to the Election Commission. The EC has asked all parties to put forth their views by 31 January.
What is the RVM System?: According to the system proposed by EC, domestic migrants will be able to vote remotely for elections in their home constituency.
The multi-constituency RVM, developed by Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL), can handle up to 72 constituencies from a single remote polling booth, in which a voter (migrant from another state/constituency) can cast their vote for elections in their home constituency.
The polling will take place at remote polling stations set up for domestic migrants.
Read about the full process of remote voting as proposed by the EC here.