Bharatiya Janata Party leader L K Advani on Sunday found support from rivals Communist party of India - Marxist, Janata Dal - Secular and Lok Janshakti Party for his suggestion for the re-introduction of ballot papers in place of Electronic Voting Machines.
Advani has not cast any doubts on the results of the Lok Sabha elections but feels the country should revert to ballot papers, starting with the Maharashtra assembly elections in October and some more states later, unless the Election Commission was able to ensure that EVMs were fool-proof and every possibility of malfunctioning has been taken care of.
However, the Congress has reacted strongly, saying it was an 'astonishing' statement by a losing party.
Recently, the controversy over the EVMs gained momentum when former Delhi chief secretary Omesh Saigal gave a presentation to the Commission as to how EVMs can be programmed to manipulate results, after which the Commission asked a deputy commissioner to probe the matter.
BJP spokesperson Ravishankar Prasad told PTI that the party was making it 'very clear' that it was not raising any question mark over the recently held Lok Sabha elections in the "absence of any tangible proof".
"It is certainly expected that the Election Commission would ensure after proper enquiry that the EVMs are not subjected to any manipulation or malfunctioning. Till that is done, it is expected that the elections to Maharashtra, Haryana etc will be done through ballot papers," he said. Prasad noted that in Germany, voting machines have been prohibited while in the United States, it is mandatory to provide paper back ups to EVMs.
The CPIM said that the questions being raised about the functioning of EVMs should be considered 'very seriously', especially as many countries have reverted back to ballot papers, including developed ones.
"Many questions have already been raised related to EVMs. These are serious issues and if we want to strengthen our democracy then we should consider the matter very seriously," CPI-M politburo member Yechury told reporters. He said many countries in the world, which were using EVMs, have reverted back to ballot papers and these included developed countries, with Germany being the latest example.
Addressing a press conference, JD-S chief H D Deve Gowda said that secrecy cannot be maintained in EVMs. "This system should be abandoned. Our party, at the all-party meeting before the elections, had enlisted the shortcomings of the EVMs.
"In EVMs, booth-wise details of voting can be known. This could lead to parties intimidating and harassing voters in a particular area," he said. Gowda said the country should go back to the old system of ballot papers.
LJP Secretary General Abdul Khalid said his party demanded that the practice of using EVMs should be stopped and the old practice of ballot papers should be brought back. "EVMs can be tampered with. At times, there are problems even in polling inside Parliament. So how can EVMs be foolproof," he said.
The Congress reacted by saying, "Advani's comments are most unfortunate. I hope and trust that they do not betray a lack of grace over the loss in the elections."
Singhvi said he hoped that Advani does not take the country back to dark ages when India is proclaimed a proud democracy with 1.2 million EVMs in over one million polling booths and 700 million voters and results are out within four hours after the start of counting.
Meanwhile, rejecting the BJP's charge of malfunctioning of EVMs, the Election Commission on Sunday night said it was satisfied about their foolproof working and it would consider measures to clear the apprehensions of political parties.
"The EC is amply satisfied about the non-tamperability and the foolproof working of the EVMs. The Commission's confidence in the efficacy of the EVMs has been fortified by the judgments of various courts and the views of technical experts," the Commission said in its press note.
The commission would, however, consider all the points raised and apprehensions expressed recently by various political leaders and individuals regarding EVMs and take all necessary measures to clear doubts about use of EVMs in elections, the note stated.
Noting that the Commission came across reports regarding technological vulnerability of the EVMs for possible manipulation, the EC referred to the Karnataka High Court hailing the EVMs as 'a national pride'.
Referring to former Delhi Chief Secretary Omesh Sehgals claim that "rigging of EVMs was very much possible", the Commission said that Sehgal had handed over a letter when he met Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla on June 30.
However, no demonstration on the tamperability of the EVM has been given by Sehgal to the Commission or to its officials, nor has the Commission ordered any enquiry, as reported in a section of the press, the EC clarified.
"The Commission receives complaints, petitions and letters from various quarters on electoral issues including the matters related to EVMs. All these complaints are looked into for taking necessary action, if any is required," it said.
Observing that an analogy was drawn to electronic voting systems adopted in various foreign countries and their experience with electronic voting, the EC said the Commission has in the past, provided opportunities to the complainants to prove their points on the alleged vulnerability of EVM. So far, no one has been able to demonstrate to the Commission that EVMs can be manipulated.