No demonstration of remote EVMs before political parties after Opposition seeks more discussion

The date for political parties to submit written responses has now been extended to February 28 from January 31

January 16, 2023 05:16 pm | Updated 06:07 pm IST

Election officials demonstrating the functioning of EVM and VVPAT at the remote Bolapatar, a disputed village in Kerameri Mandal within Adilabad (ST) Lok Sabha constituency.

Election officials demonstrating the functioning of EVM and VVPAT at the remote Bolapatar, a disputed village in Kerameri Mandal within Adilabad (ST) Lok Sabha constituency.

No demonstration of the remote electronic voting machines (RVM) before political parties was held after the Opposition sought more discussion. The date for political parties to submit written responses has now been extended to February 28 from January 31, according to sources.

The political parties sought for consensus on the issue, sources said.

Opposition parties questioned the need to deploy remote voting machines and urged the Election Commission (EC) to address the issue of urban apathy towards the poll process.

The EC was scheduled to showcase the remote electronic voting machine (RVM) prototype for migrant voters to representatives of political parties on January 16.

Also Read | Ayes and nays: On remote EVMs for domestic migrants

“No Opposition party wants to see the demonstration of an RVM. First, the issue of the need to have such a machine should be settled,” senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh told reporters after participating in a meeting of political parties convened by the EC for the demonstration of the workings of an RVM. The former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister said he felt that there would be no RVM demonstration till there is a consensus on having one. No political party is prepared to see the demonstration, he said.

The poll panel had invited eight recognized national parties and 57 recognized State parties for a demonstration on Monday morning.

The letter stated that they have been invited for a “discussion on improving voter participation of domestic migrants using remote voting.” 

Also Read | Explained | Will migrants be able to vote remotely? 

While inviting parties for the demonstration of the prototype, the poll panel had also issued a concept note on the technology.

Parties were also asked to give in writing their views on issues such as changes required in the law to allow the use of RVM.

If implemented after stakeholder consultations, migrant voters do not need to travel to their home districts to exercise their franchise.

Terming counting of votes cast at remote booths and their transmission to the returning officer in other states as a “technological challenge”, Election Commission officials had earlier said RVMs will be developed as “a robust, failproof and efficient stand-alone system” based on existing electronic voting machines and will not be connected to the internet.

The multi-constituency remote EVM, developed by public sector undertaking Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL), can handle up to 72 constituencies from a single remote polling booth.

ECIL and Bharat Electronics Ltd are the two PSUs manufacturing the EVMs.

The RVM is a modified version of the time-tested model of M3 (Mark 3) EVMs to enable voting at remote polling stations—polling stations outside home constituency, for domestic migrants.

The initiative, if implemented, can lead to a “social transformation” for migrants, THE EC had said last month.

Opposition parties to oppose EC’s proposal on remote voting machine

Most of the Opposition parties have decided to oppose the Election Commission’s proposal on the RVM as it is “sketchy” and not “concrete”, Mr. Singh said on January 15.

He made the remarks after a meeting of Opposition parties facilitated by the Congress that was attended by leaders of the JD(U), Shiv Sena, CPI, CPI(M), National Conference, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), Revolutionary Socialist Party, Indian Union Muslim League, as well as Independent Rajya Sabha MP and former Congress leader Kapil Sibal.

CPI General Secretary D. Raja said all the parties that were at the meeting will also attend the Election Commission’s prototype demonstration and raise critical concerns.

Mr. Singh said the Nationalist Congress Party and the Samajwadi Party were also on board the Opposition deliberations, though their representatives were not present at the meeting.

“The overall view of all political parties that attended today was to unanimously oppose the proposal of RVM because it is still very sketchy. The proposal is not concrete. There are political anomalies and problems in the proposal,” Mr. Singh said.

“The definition of migrant labour, and the number of migrant labour is all not very clear. Therefore, we all have unanimously made up our mind to oppose the proposal of RVM,” he said.

Mr. Singh said the EC has asked the parties to give their reply by January 31, and so those parties that attended the meeting will meet again on January 25 and send their reply either jointly or separately but with a clear view that they “don’t support RVM”.

At the same time there have been numerous concerns about the trust on EVM machines and all those concerns which have been documented after a detailed discussion with computer science experts, professionals and cryptographers will be raised, he said.

Mr. Singh noted that the civil society had given a memorandum to the EC in May 2022 but the poll panel had not even responded to them.

Responding to a question, Mr. Singh said all parties that had expressed concern over EVMs and RVMs were invited.

He said BSP chief Mayawati has also spoken against EVM. “We invite her to join this initiative,” he said.

Speaking with reporters, Mr. Raja said the EC has convened a meeting on RVMs and the parties that met Sunday will all attend Monday’s meeting and raise critical questions about EVMs, RVMs and migrant labourers.

“Without taking political parties into confidence the EC cannot decide anything unilaterally,” he said.

(With inputs from PTI)

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