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Opposition parties discuss farm crisis, unemployment, to approach EC on EVMs

New Delhi, Feb 1 (IANS) Over 20 opposition parties including the Congress, SP, BSP and the Left on Friday discussed the agrarian crisis, rising unemployment and “attacks on democratic institutions” by the Modi government here and resolved to petition the Election Commission (EC) over tampering of EVMs.

The ‘Save the Nation, Save Democracy’ meeting at the Constitution Club here was participated by Congress President Rahul Gandhi, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and TDP chief N. Chandrababu Naidu and NCP chief Sharad Pawar among others.

Addressing the media after the meeting, Gandhi said the opposition parties will on Monday submit a memorandum to the EC with their proposals seeking to address their “doubts” over the fairness of electronic voting machines (EVMs).

The parties also discussed at length the core issues that the country is faced with — agrarian distress, unemployment and the systematic attacks on democratic institutions by the Modi government.

“It was a very good meeting where we all discussed two central issues and one structural issue – the issue of unemployment where the Modi government has completely failed, the agrarian crisis and the systematic attacks that this government has been carrying on,” said Gandhi.

Raking up the Rafale deal which he alleges to be the India’s “biggest defence scam”, Gandhi also said that agrarian crisis, unemployment and the attacks on democratic institutions along with “Modi’s corruption in the jets deal” will be the core issues in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

The memorandum on the EVMs signed by representatives of 21 parties will be submitted to the EC on Monday evening.

“The main issue with the EVMs is that there are doubts about the fairness of the system in many people. We want to create a backup system, it is about building the confidence of people in the electoral system,” said Gandhi adding that the memorandum to the EC has several proposals seeking to address the doubts about the voting machines.

Communist Party of India-Marxist Lok Sabha member Mohammad Salim said among the major demands to the EC was ensuring verifying 50 per cent of VVPATs with the paper trails instead of the now 10 per cent.

“Doubts over the EVMs have been raised by all opposition from time to time and that’s why VVPATs were introduced. But even then the issues remain because only a fraction of the paper trail is verified. The demand is to ensure 50 per cent of verification if not more,” said Salim.

Among other present in the meeting were Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien, Ramgopal Yadav of SP, Sharad Yadav of LJD, Sanjay Singh of AAP, Omar Abdullah of National Conference, Satish Chandra Misra of BSP, Manoj Jha of RJD, Kanimozhi of DMK, Jayant Chaudhary of RLD, D. Raja of CPI, Danish Ali from JD-S and Jitin Ram Manjhi of HAM.

While the opposition parties had earlier demanded the EC to revert to paper ballot system for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, but with only two months remaining for the poll battle, they have insisted on enhancing the paper trail verification of VVPATs.

On the Interim Budget presented by the Modi government, Gandhi was fiercely critical of the scheme of annual income support of Rs 6,000 for small farmers, calling it an insult.

“When Rs 3.5 lakh crore of loans to a handful industrialists have been waived, an income Rs 17 per day to our debt ridden farmers is nothing but an insult. There can no bigger insult than that,” he said.

Countering the BJP’s assertions that devoid of any issues, the Congress was criticising the budget, Gandhi said the Lok Sabha elections will be fought on the issue of Modi’s corruption in the Rafale deal.

“There will be surgical strikes happening in the next couple of months, on Rafale, on agriculture crisis, on unemployment, we have many issues and the biggest issue is that Modi enriched his crony by Rs 30,000 crore in the Rafale deal,” added Gandhi.



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