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16 Oppn parties urge EC to revert to paper ballots, Mamata takes lead

Sixteen Opposition parties on Monday urged the Election Commission to revert to the paper ballot system, claiming the faith of the people in the EVMs has "eroded".

Representatives of parties including Congress, BSP, DMK, Trinamool Congress and the Left met top EC officials to demand reintroduction of the ballot paper system.

The poll watchdog, which has vouched for the reliability of EVMs, said it would soon convene an all-party meet to discuss the issue, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal and DMK leader T Siva told reporters after the meeting.

Earlier in the day leaders of various opposition parties met in Parliament and decided to jointly meet the Election Commission, demanding that their concerns on the issue be addressed.

The opposition leaders decided to put forth their demand before the EC for simultaneous use of VVPAT (paper trail of voting) and ballot paper in 50 per cent constituencies each for elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh slated later this year.

"This will help check the voting system and dispel all doubts about their use in elections," said a leader.

It may be mentioned that Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who was in Delhi took the initiative to unite opposition parties on the EVM issue.

"I had written a book in 2006 on how EVM can be tampered. The current system is not transparent, so it is better to go back to the past," Banerjee told reporters in Parliament.

"The EC has to abide by the democratic process…when so many political parties are raising it. The EC has to increase its staff strength for counting," Banerjee added.

At 11.30 am Congress stalwarts Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ahmed Patel met Mamata at the TMC party office at Parliament and discussed the EVM issue. The TMC supremo also separately met Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik and former Uttar Pradesh CM Akhilesh Yadav in this regard.

Opposition leaders have been demanding that VVPAT is introduced in all future elections. The Congress has also been pushing for use of ballot papers instead of EVMs in upcoming elections in view of the alleged tampering.

The parties are demanding that the EC dispel the apprehensions they have and reassure the people of the country and voters on the serious issue.

The opposition parties observed that free and fair elections are the basic founding blocks on which the entire edifice of the country has been maintained.

Among those present at Monday's strategy meeting held at Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad's chamber in Parliament included Congress leaders Ahmed Patel, Anand Sharma, Kapil Sibal and Vivek Tankha, besides JDU leader Ali Anwar Ansari, TMC leader Sukhendu Sekhar Roy, BSP leader Satish Misra and SP leader Neeraj Shekhar.

NCP leader Majeed Memon, CPI leader D Raja, CPI-M leader C P Narayanan and RJD leader J P Narain Yadav were also present during the meeting.
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