Cyber-savvy Naidu wants country to revert to ballot paper

Updated 8:03 PM, 13 June, 2019
Chandrababu Naidu - The Federal
TDP chief and former Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu Photo: Facebook

Known for his penchant for adopting modern technologies in administration and real-time governance, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, however, sounded paradoxical when he raised doubts over the credibility of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and renewed the demand to revert to the ballot paper system.
The Chief Minister’s demand came in the middle of brisk polling in Andhra Pradesh on April 11 for the 175-member Assembly and 25 Lok Sabha seats.
With reports of EVMs malfunctioning pouring in from several booths in the morning, the Telugu Desam Party chief expressed unhappiness over the arrangements and shot off a letter to the Election Commission, seeking extension of the polling time at the booths where voting could not start till 9:30 am due to technical glitches.
“At lease now, the Election Commission should review its stand on EVMs,” an angry Naidu said. His resistance to the use of EVMs ran contrary to his well-crafted image of being a cyber-savvy chief minister known for introducing bold reforms and technology-driven initiatives in the administration.
Naidu’s TDP was among the 22 opposition parties which had demanded that at least the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips be counted. The Supreme Court recently directed the poll panel to increase the random matching of VVPAT slips with EVMs to five polling booths per Assembly segment, from one at present. The court, however, did not agree to the demand by the opposition parties for matching at least 50% of VVPAT slips with EVMs.
“We are planning to file a review petition for counting of at least 25% of VVPAT slips,” Naidu said.
“We have for long been saying that there is scope for technical problems and manipulation in EVMs. Even technologically advanced countries are using ballot papers,” the TDP chief said.
He wrote to the Chief Election Commissioner saying that EVMs were not working in 30% of the polling stations and demanded re-polling in places where voting had not begun till 9:30 am.
“A large number of women and old people are waiting in the hot sun as the commencement of poll has been delayed, and the polling process is slow. It is likely that many of the voters who returned may not come back for voting even if the polling is resumed after replacement/repair of the existing EVMs,” Naidu said in his letter.
Naidu’s remarks on EVMs in the midst of brisk polling across the state evoked derisive response from the opposition YSR Congress Party. “It is clear that Chief Minister is already looking for an excuse. He is trying to push the blame on EVMs and Election Commission,” the YSRCP MP Y V Subba Reddy said.
Naidu is facing the toughest poll battle in his four decade long career. After walking out of the NDA in March last year over denial of Special Category Status to Andhra, he is fighting the elections alone and is up against a resurgent opposition in the YSRCP headed by Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy. The presence of actor-turned-politician Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena Party in the poll fray has changed the dynamics in the state.