Oppn forces RS adjournment alleging tampering of EVMs

NEW DELHI
5 Apr 2017

Opposition parties today forced a brief adjournment of Rajya Sabha proceedings protesting over alleged tampering of EVMs to favour the ruling BJP, even as the government told the Lok Sabha that it was collecting information in this regard and other related issues. Members of the Congress, SP and BSP trooped into the Well of the Rajya Sabha calling the government a "cheat", forcing Deputy Chairman P J Kurien to adjourn the proceedings briefly. The government vehemently denied the charge, saying if anybody had a problem, they could go to the Election Commission (EC) as Parliament was not the forum to agitate. In the Lok Sabha, Minister of State for Law P P Chaudhary said in a written reply that the information on whether any review has been conducted regarding tampering of electronic voting machines (EVMs), violation of the Model Code and the funds spent by candidates in the recently-held polls "is being collected and will be laid on the Table of the House". In the Upper House, Congress and SP members gave as many as four notices under rule 267 seeking suspension of business to take up the issue which the treasury benches vehemently opposed. Mayawati (BSP) called the ruling party "beiman" (cheat), a comment that led to a ruckus in the House with Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi saying the BSP supremo had "insulted the people of the country and democracy". Opposition members protested saying the barb was directed at BJP and not against the people, but the protests from treasury benches led Kurien to say he would expunge such remarks from the records. Angry exchanges were also witnessed between Naqvi and Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad. Naqvi said the general elections in 2004 and 2009 and the assembly polls in Bihar, Punjab and Delhi where the BJP lost, were all conducted using EVMs and the Congress did not seem to have any objections then. Azad shot back saying the governments under the Congress rule did not tamper with EVMs and it was only now that such practices have crept in. When the Upper House met for the day, Digvijaya Singh (Cong) said the testing of EVMs for a by-election in Madhya Pradesh had a few days back shown manipulations by which votes could be credited to BJP irrespective of the candidate for whom these have been cast. He demanded that ballot papers be used for the upcoming by-elections and elections henceforth. HRD minister Prakash Javedkar countered him saying the EC has made it clear there can be no manipulation of EVMs and if the opposition had any problem they should go to it and not waste Parliament's time. While Ramgopal Yadav (SP) alleged the EVMs are being deliberately programmed to favour the BJP, Mayawati said "mass irregularities" were committed in the recently concluded assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. BSP, she said, has gone to the court against the use of EVMs. She went on to call it "murder of democracy" and demanded the use of ballot papers in future elections. Her party colleague Satish Misra said this was a government of EVMs and the ministers protesting were "EVM ministers." The treasury benches protested these remarks as an insult to the people and democracy. Kurien said he had not allowed notices under rule 267 but allowed those who had given these notices to make brief submissions on the issue. "I am not allowing discussion under 267. If you want discussion, there are other ways," he said. Stating that "a cheat will be called a cheat", Naresh Agrawal (SP) said chips used in EVMs are being programmed to favour the BJP. Kurien said the EC has clarified that this was not possible. The Leader of Opposition said free and fair elections are the foundation of Indian democracy but unfortunately for the first time, doubts have been cast over EVMs. Azad alleged that a "thief" does not rob the entire house but does it only selectively so as not to get caught. And in this case, the EVMs were manipulated in the largest state of Uttar Pradesh. He demanded that by-elections in Madhya Pradesh and the coming assembly polls in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh should be conducted using ballot papers. Naqvi again said the aspersions were being cast not against the government but against the Election Commission and the people of the country. "If victory has a glamour, defeat should have grace," he said, a comment that infuriated the opposition members who trooped into the Well raising slogans. Kurien asked opposition members to take up the issue with the Election Commission. "This is an issue to be taken up with Election Commission," he said. "Election Commission is to examine if EVM is functioning properly or not. Chair cannot do anything." Later, he adjourned the proceedings till 1130 hours.(PTI)