A day after polling in Andhra Pradesh, which was marred by the malfunctioning of some EVMs, Chief Minister and TDP President N. Chandrababu Naidu on Friday blasted the Election Commission for what he called “turning the elections into a big farce”.
Declaring war on the poll panel, Naidu said its insistence on use of a non-reliable technology, refusal to count VVPAT slips, transfer of officials and its other moves at the behest of Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised serious questions over its credibility.
At a news conference, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief said that he had never seen such an insensitive, irresponsible and useless Election Commission.
He said he was ready to go to any extent in his struggle to save democracy, which he said, was being endangered by relying on Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) which can be manipulated.
Accusing the EC of bias, Naidu wondered why democracy should be at the mercy of machines.
Claiming that 35 per cent of the EVMs malfunctioned during the polling in the state on Thursday, Naidu said the voters had to suffer as some of them waited till the early hours of Friday to cast their votes.
“Polling at many booths started at 1 p.m. and ended at 6 p.m. Some people voted at 3.30 a.m. Do you have commitment towards the country. Do you care for democracy vote. The Election Commission should answer.”
He took strong exception to Deputy Election Commissioner Umesh Sinha calling the EVM malfunctioning a small issue and said at one stage 4,600 EVMs were not functioning.
“Your own CEO (Chief Electoral Officer) could not vote. What about the common man. What do you say about this,” Naidu asked.
The TDP leader also questioned the EC about the qualification and credibility of technicians it recruited to repair the EVMs. “Who are these people? How were they recruited. What is the guarantee that these people are not doing any manipulation in the EVMs,” he asked.
Naidu said since the EVMs are ‘manageable’ and can be tampered with, 22 parties had urged the EC to revert to the system of paper ballot to bring transparency in the system. When the poll panel ruled this out, they demanded counting of all Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips.
The Chief Minister disputed the EC’s claim that it will take six days to count VVPAT slips. “This can be done in six hours. I am ready to prove this. Remember, how long it was taking to count of ballot papers, maximum 24 hours.”
The Supreme Court, while hearing a petition by these parties, had directed the EC on April 8 to increase the random matching of the VVPAT slips with the EVMs to five polling booths per Assembly segment, from one at present. The court, however, did not agree to the demand by the parties for matching at least 50 per cent of the VVPAT slips with the EVMs.
Naidu said he would visit Delhi on Saturday for filing a review petition in the Supreme Court for counting of at least 25 per cent of the VVPAT slips.
He slammed the EC for holding the elections in Andhra Pradesh in the first phase. “Last time, the elections were held in the last phase and this time in the first phase. What is the logic behind it. Did you have a jumbling system or a lottery system or did you consult the parties. What it indicates. You did it because, Modi wanted this,” he said.
Naidu came down heavily on the poll panel for the transfer of officials including the Chief Secretary and alleged that it was all done to favour the YSR Congress Party. He reiterated that the EC shunted out the Kadapa Superintendent of Police as he was probing the murder of Y.S. Vivekananda Reddy, the uncle of YSRCP chief Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy.
He pointed out that Vivekananda Reddy was murdered at home and the evidence on the crime was erased. “You did what the criminals wanted. Where will be the law and order,” he asked alleging that the poll violence was pre-planned.
He also asked the EC why it failed to give to the state police the IP addresses of those who tried to delete 7 lakh votes under a conspiracy and alleged that the poll panel shielded the criminals.
Rajya Sabha passes two agriculture Bills amid pandemonium
The Rajya Sabha on Sunday passed two agriculture-related Bills amid a pandemonium due to protests by opposition members.
The Upper House gave the nod to The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, and The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, as opposition MPs continued to shout slogans during their passage. Some lawmakers even staged a walkout in protest.
Earlier, replying to the debate on the Bills, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar assured the House that the Minimum Support Price regime will not be scrapped. Some of the amendments moved by the opposition lawmakers were not pressed for voting while those pressed for voting were negated.
The opposition also demanded that the Bills be sent to the Select committee of the Upper House but it was not accepted by the government.
Earlier, the House witnessed unruly scenes when TMC MP Derek O’Brien went near the Chair and tried to snatch a mike while citing from the rule book. When his objections were overruled, an aggressive Derek O’Brien tore the rule book by calling the Bills “Kala Kanoon” or black laws, leading to adjournment of the House for a brief period.
The Trinamool leader was also heard saying: “You cannot do this” to the Chair. At one point in time, the aides of the Deputy Chair, who was conducting the House proceedings, had to come forward to shield him.
Despite repeated requests, many opposition members reached the Well of the House to register their protests.
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad demanded that discussion on the Bills be continued on Monday. “To decide this, we should go by the consensus among the members, not by the numbers of the ruling party,” Azad said.
The opposition as well as BJP ally Shiromani Akali Dal termed the Bills an “anti-farmers” move by the Centre, with some staging a walkout.
Thousands of farmers in Punjab, Haryana and several other states have been protesting since the government introduced these Bills in the Lok Sabha on September 14, the opening day of the Monsoon Session of Parliament.
The Bills seek to replace the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020 promulgated on June 5.
The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 seeks to provide a new ecosystem in which farmers and traders, as per the government, will enjoy freedom of choice relating to sale and purchase of their produce and facilitates remunerative prices through competitive alternative trading channels to promote efficient, transparent and barrier-free inter- and intra-state trade and commerce.
The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, aims to provide a national framework on farming agreements that protects and empowers farmers to engage with agri-business firms, processors, wholesalers, exporters or large retailers.
Lok Sabha business list’s schedule for Amit Shah
Union Home Minister Amit Shah is to lay papers on the table in the Lok Sabha and introduce Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020 along with two other Bills for passage, revised list of Business of the lower House reveals.
It will be his first presence during the ongoing Monsoon Session of Parliament after he defeated coronavirus or Covid-19 pandemic which infected him last month.
The Minister is expected to join proceedings of the House when it will assemble for the day at 3 pm. He will be present along with his two junior Ministers Nityanand Rai and G. Kishan Reddy, the legislative Business of the lower House mentions.
As per the legislative Business of the House, the Minister will lay Home Ministry papers on the Table and then introduce the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020 which seeks amendment into the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010.
Shah will also move the National Forensic Sciences University Bill, 2020 for its passage. The Minister’s name is mentioned in the legislative business list to press for the Bill which provides establishment and declare an institution to be known as the National Forensic Sciences University as an institution of national importance to facilitate and promote studies and research and to achieve excellence in the field of forensic science in conjunction with applied behavioural science studies, law, criminology and other allied areas and technology and other related fields.
The Minister’s name is also listed for the move of Rashtriya Raksha University Bill, 2020 for its consideration and passage. The Bill seeks to establish and declare an institution to be known as the Rashtriya Raksha University as an institution of national importance and to provide for its incorporation and matters connected.
Shah was expected to join the Lok Sabha on Saturday as National Forensic Sciences University Bill, 2020 and Rashtriya Raksha University Bill, 2020 was listed on his name for the day. However, the Minister did not join the House because of some reasons.
Shah was discharged from AIIMS on Thursday evening, four days after being admitted there for a complete medical check-up.
On September 13, Shah was admitted to AIIMS for a complete check-up ahead of the Monsoon Session of Parliament. This was the third time he was admitted to hospital after contracting coronavirus.
Shah had been suffering from post-Covid ailments for a month. On August 2, he had tested positive for Covid-19 and received treatment at Medanta Hospital in Gurugram. The Home Minister was discharged on August 14 after testing negative.
On August 18, Shah was admitted to AIIMS for post-Covid treatment after he complained of fatigue and bodyache. He recovered on August 29 and was discharged.
Ex-PM H.D. Deve Gowda takes oath as RS member
Former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda took oath as a Rajya Sabha member on Sunday .
The Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) supremo took oath in Kannada in the presence of Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu shortly after the House convened for the day.
Gowda, 87, was elected unopposed to the Rajya Sabha from Karnataka with the support of the opposition Congress on June 12 in the biennial elections held in Bengaluru for four seats that fell vacant after the previous members’ terms ended on June 25.
Though 45 of the 61 new members took oath on July 22 in Parliament House, Gowda could not go to New Delhi then, as he was unwell and due to coronavirus-induced restrictions on travelling for senior citizens amid the pandemic.
Gowda has entered the Rajya Sabha for the second time, 24 years after he was elected when he was the Prime Minister from June 1996 to April 1997.
Meanwhile, former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Congress leader Ambika Soni and Samajwadi Party’s Revati Ramn Singh have sought leave from Sunday’s session.
Citing health issues, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram also sought leave.
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