New Delhi, March 23 (IANS) Dismissing allegations of misuse of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), levelled by some opposition leaders after the elections in five states, Union Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday said EVMs don’t make or break fortunes, but voters do.
“EVMs don’t make or break fortune. Voters do,” Prasad said, while replying to a debate in the Rajya Sabha over electoral reforms that began on Wednesday.
“When we (BJP) lost elections in Bihar, and Delhi, the EVMs were fine. But now that we have won (in Uttar Pradesh), the EVMs are faulty. What kind of standard is this?” Prasad asked the opposition leaders.
“If we were powerful enough to effect changes in EVMs, we could have done this in Bihar, and certainly in Delhi, to win assembly elections,” he added.
The Minister, from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said all parties must learn to respect the public mandate.
Prasad said that EVMs have passed many a scrutiny since their introduction in the year 2000.
“An EVM has several advantages over paper ballots. There are no invalid votes in an EVM. Between 1962 and 1999 elections, the number of invalid votes in many cases used to be higher than the margin of victory,” Prasad said.
He said the use of EVMs has made booth capturing near impossible as not more than five votes can be cast in a minute in an EVM.
Clearing doubts over manufacturing of EVMs, Prasad said that EVMs are manufactured exclusively by two state-owned firms in India — Bharat Electronics Ltd and Electronics Corporation of India Ltd — for security reasons.
He said the logic given by some members that voting machines are not used by several advanced countries does not hold water as the so-called advanced countries may not always be right in every respect.
“Why didn’t you ask as to why we are using Aadhar, which was initiated by the UPA government, though it is not being used by many countries including England and Japan? When would we stop seeing ourselves as inferior to them?” he said.
On the issue of procuring voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines, Prasad said they would be brought in a phased manner.
“The issues of logistics, storage, safety and security of VVPAT machines need to be sorted out first. And these machines can only be manufactured by state-owned companies not outsiders. Funding it is just one part of the entire issue,” he said.
However, the Minister did not clarify as to why the government has not released Rs 3,100 crore in the last three years as demanded by the Election Commission for purchasing VVPAT machines.
On the issue of paid news, the Minister said this is one issue that needs to be looked into.
He said the government is currently not considering to introduce proportional representation as this “may not reflect true mandate of the states or the country”.
On state funding of political parties, Prasad said the idea was not feasible in the current scenario.
However, at the end of the reply, the entire opposition walked out of the House saying they were not satisfied with the Minister’s reply. They also accused Prasad of “misleading” the House over the issue.
“We are not satisfied with the government’s reply. We are walking out,” Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said before the entire opposition staged a walk out from the House.