Leaders representing 22 Opposition parties met the Election Commission in Delhi on Tuesday, demanding that the counting of VVPAT slips at five polling stations in every Lok Sabha constituency be done before the counting of votes in EVMs.
The delegation comprised of Congress' Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ashok Gehlot and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's Kanimozhi, Trinamool Congress' Derek O'Brien, Aam Aadmi Party's Arvind Kejriwal and Telugu Desam Party's N Chandrababu Naidu.
In a memorandum submitted to the EC, the leaders discussed their demands, which included counting VVPAT slips in five polling booths of each Lok Sabha constituency before beginning the counting of votes and not after the completion of the last round of counting.
In the meeting that lasted for over an hour, the second demand posed before the poll body was that if any discrepancy is found during the VVPAT slip counting, all the paper slips of VVPAT at all polling stations of the Assembly constituency be counted.
After the meeting, Azad said that the EC assured them that they will discuss the issue on Wednesday morning among themselves with an open mind. Meanwhile, Singhvi said, "In the past 1.5 months, we have raised the same issues in writing. Now we have asked the EC that why they haven't responded. We are only asking for counting of 100 percent of VVPATs if there's a problem. Why should you have them as decorative pieces after finding a sample problem?"
Azad also said that they raised the issue of "moving around of EVMs" around strong rooms.
Naidu said that the Opposition leaders have asked the EC to "respect the mandate". He went on to say that the tallying of EVMs and VVPAT slips was like taking a blood sample for the body to check if there is any "pollution" in the body. He also added that if the blood reports aren't acted upon then there will be "cancer".
Ahmed Patel, BSP's Satish Chandra Misra, CPM's Sitaram Yechury, CPI's D Raja, RJD's Manoj Jha and NCP's Majeed Memon were a part of the meeting.
In their memorandum, the parties claimed that EVM guidelines were flouted during the Lok Sabha election and demanded VVPAT verification.
The EC had issued a statement on the same day that reports of EVM movements in strong rooms are false. "Complaints of alleged movement of EVMs, purportedly to replace polled EVMs in strong rooms, are doing rounds in sections of media. We would like to unambiguously clarify that reports are absolutely false. Visuals seen viral on media do not pertain to any EVMs used during the polls," the poll body clarified.
Earlier on Tuesday, Opposition leaders met in Delhi, two days before the Lok Sabha election results, to discuss the possibility of a non-NDA alliance. "On VVPATs and the EVM tally, the EC is yet to come out with a procedure in case there is a mismatch," Yechury said.
Former president Pranab Mukherjee had lauded the poll panel's roll in conducting the Lok Sabha elections "perfectly" on Monday. However, on Tuesday, he issued a statement saying that ensuring institutional integrity, specifically the security of EVMs in this case, is the EC's responsibility.
"There can be no room for speculations that challenge the very basis of our democracy. People's mandate is sacrosanct and has to be above any iota of reasonable doubt," Mukherjee's statement read.