congress: Congress manifesto for 2024 LS polls should promise to junk EVMs, restore paper ballots: Prithviraj Chavan

Casting doubt on the reliability of EVMs, senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan on Sunday said his party will work on a plan to take the issue to people and promise in its manifesto for the 2024 parliamentary polls to restore paper ballots. The Congress has taken a strong stand against the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and has even pressed the Election Commission for a return to paper ballots.

Chavan, a former Maharashtra chief minister, raised the issue during deliberations in the party’s panel on political issues at the three-day ‘Chintan Shivir’. He said many other leaders have supported the view.

Chavan, a member of the group of 23 leaders who wrote to Sonia Gandhi demanding organisational overhaul and reforms, thanked the Congress president for organising the ‘Shivir’ for “open and frank” discussions that were “very structured and disciplined”.

He said winning the 2024 Lok Sabha elections is very important for the Congress and as well for helping “save democracy”. He said the party would also focus on the assembly polls in 12 states before the parliamentary elections as it was imperative for the party to win and return to power in states and at the Centre.

“A lot of talk took place on EVM and the way fraud is taking place. It is my personal opinion that (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi will not change anything even if we petition or request him. There is only one option — we will have to defeat him and have to write in our manifesto that we will remove EVMs and go back to paper ballots…. Can’t do anything before that,” he told reporters.

“We have to look at state-specific issues as in some states there is a direct fight (between the Congress and the BJP) while in others there are other parties also. We have to win assembly elections first. The biggest thing is that all of us met after Covid and I thank party chief for that,” he added.

On the Congress chief telling leaders that it was time to pay back to the party, he said she meant ensuring the victory of the Congress in states and at the Centre.

Chavan parried questions on the “soft Hindutva” approach of the Congress, saying, “We discussed those issues that are of concern to the Congress party. The outcome of the discussions will be there for everyone to see.”

Asked about Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel advocating the soft Hindutva approach while some others reportedly opposing it, Chavan said he would not like to comment on what was discussed inside.

He, however, added, “There are genuine concerns each state has…and this is the purpose of people meeting from across the country and discussing issues.”

The Maharashtra leader also accused MNS leader Raj Thackeray of trying to polarise voters in the state and alleged that film actors were being used to denigrate Congress leaders.

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