EVMs in focus in run-up to MP bypolls

Bhopal: Though the campaign for the April 9 Assembly bypolls in Madhya Pradesh remained politically less intense, there has been much heat over EVMs after a VVPAT machine reportedly dispensed slips of only the BJP symbol during a trial.

The opposition Congress has pressed for a return to the paper ballot for all elections.

It all began with the trial of an EVM at Ater in Bhind district, when some reports suggested that voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machine dispensed only BJP slips, no matter which button on it was pressed.

However, MP’s Chief Electoral Officer denied this.

The Congress has said it will continue to demand for bringing back ballot papers for elections instead of using the EVMs and exuded confidence of winning the two upcoming Assembly bypolls in MP.

In Ater, the by-election is necessitated following the death of Congress leader Satyadev Katare while the Bandhavgarh (ST) seat in Umari district fell vacant as incumbent MLA Gyan Singh was elected to the Lok Sabha in November last year.

The principal fight in Ater is between Congress’ Hemant Katare, son of Satyadev Katare, and BJP’s Arvind Singh Bhadoria, while the combat in Bandhavgarh (ST) seat between Shivnarayan Singh of BJP and Savitri Singh of Congress.

The counting of votes will take place on April 13.

“We are firm on our decision and will continue to press for reverting back from EVMs to ballot paper system for conducting the polls as demanded by all major political parties except BJP,” MP Congress’ chief spokesman K K Mishra told PTI.

“The fight for replacing EVMs has already been started and now our leaders are raising it at the national level,” Mishra said.

Notably, Congress General Secretary Digvijaya Singh earlier this week said in the Rajya Sabha that the testing of EVMs for a by-election in MP showed 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 these bypolls and other elections henceforth.

Mishra said they are confident of winning the Ater bypoll as people have “lot of sympathy for Congress candidate Hemant Katare, following the death of his father.”

“The people are also fed up of the long list of false promises made by BJP in the run-up to every election and it is very much clear at the ground level that Congress would win the polls comfortably,” he claimed.

“Despite this if Congress loses in Ater, it will be proved beyond doubt that EVMs have major role in it,” he said.

However, state BJP chief spokesperson Deepak Vijaywargiya said, “Since Congress is losing in the entire country, their leaders were looking for a scapegoat to hide their ineffectiveness.”

“Humble EVM is the best answer for it and therefore Congress leadership is blaming it for its poor show,” he said.

“There is no direction in Congress. Instead of focusing on strengthening itself in the entire country, it is wasting time on issues like EVM and others,” he said.

He exuded confidence that BJP will win Bandhavgarh and will also snatch Ater from Congress.

In the 2013 state polls, Bhadoria lost to Katare from Ater in 2013 by a margin of over 11,400 votes while Gyan Singh defeated Pyarelal Baiga of Congress by over 18,600 ballots.

Meanwhile, state Joint Chief Electoral Officer S S Bansal said, “For the first time in Madhya Pradesh, the polling in both Bandhavgarh and Ater constituencies will be held with the help of VVPAT enabled EVM machines.