Leaders of as many as 22 opposition parties met the Election Commission on Tuesday and demanded verification of voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) slips of randomly-selected polling stations before the counting of the votes polled in the just-concluded Lok Sabha election begins on May 23.
They also demanded that if any discrepancy is found during VVPAT verification, 100 per cent counting of the paper slips of VVPATs of all polling stations of that particular assembly segment should be done and compared with the electronic voting machine (EVM) results.
"We told the EC that the VVPAT machines should be counted first and if there is any discrepancy, then all of them in that segment should be counted.
"During elections, there were many EVMs which malfunctioned and in many cases, when votes for one political party were cast, it showed votes for some other party, specially the BJP.
"These things we have told the EC. We, in the last three-four years have been complaining about the EVMs in Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and even in states," Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad told reporters in New Delhi after meeting EC officials.
Azad's party colleague Abhishek Singhvi said despite requests to the EC since months, the poll body has now said it will meet on Wednesday to discuss the issue.
"Even if the EC disagrees with us, then they should consider that 75 per cent of the electorate represented by these 22 parties is before you how does it matter if they change the rules?
"It will be only a change in guideline or procedure. It is a no-brainer. The EC has not decided for six weeks and now they are saying they will decide tomorrow," Singhvi said.
Ahmed Patel, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ashok Gehlot, Abhishek Singhvi of the Congress, Telugu Desam Party's Chandrababu Naidu, Satish Chandra Misra of the Bahujan Samaj Party, Sitaram Yechury of the Communist Party of India-Marxist, D Raja of the Communist Party of India, Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party convenor Arvind Kejriwal, Derek O'Brien of the Trinamool Congress, Ramgopal Yadav of the SP, Kanimozhi of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Manoj Jha (Rashtriya Janata Dal), Majeed Memon (Nationalist Congress Party), Devinder Rana (National Conference) were earlier part of an opposition meeting where the VVPAT issue was discussed along with larger strategy of formation of a non-BJP government at the centre.
The leaders then approached the EC to raise the issue of VVPAT.
"We are asking the EC to respect the mandate of the people. It cannot be manipulated. If there is a blood test and it shows some discrepancy, then the whole body should be scanned. Similarly, we demand that if discrepancy shows up in one VVPAT, then all of them in that assembly segment should be counted," Telugu Desam Party chief Chandrababu Naidu told reporters.
Bahujan Samaj Party leader Satish Chandra Mishra alleged that 'there is large-scale bungling relating to EVMs in Uttar Pradesh. We demand deployment of central forces'.
The opposition parties also raised concerns over the transportation of EVMs ahead of counting of votes and urged the EC to probe the issue.
BJP asks Oppn to accept defeat with grace
The BJP, meanwhile, condemned opposition parties for questioning the credibility of EVMs and asked them to accept their defeat with grace if the people vote Prime Minister Narendra Modi to power again.
Party leader and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad took a swipe at the opposition, saying EVMs were fine when its leaders like Mamata Banerjee, N Chandrababu Naidu and Amarinder Singh win elections and come to power, but the machines turn unreliable when it appears Modi will come back to power.
'EVM is good when Mamata Banerjee became West Bengal chief minister twice and Amarinder Singh became Punjab chief minister. If they win, EVM is good. But when there is expectation that we will win because people of this country want Narendra Modi to be prime minister again, then EVM is unreliable.
'The BJP condemns their (opposition) conduct and will tell humbly to accept their defeat with grace,' he said.
BJP spokesperson G V L Narasimha Rao said opposition parties are desperately seeking an alibi for their impending massive defeat and their sudden mistrust is 'unsurprising and unimaginary'.
'When they win, as they did in state polls recently, EVMs are trustworthy. But when they lose, they become questionable. Their selective trust in the EVMs is hypocritical and mischievous.
'Their blatant effort at rubbishing the predicted pro-BJP mandate is an insult to the Indian democracy. The Opposition parties look very small not in their defeat, but in their condemnable conduct,' he said.