Hyderabad: Telugu Desam Party president and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, N. Chandrababu Naidu launched an attack on the Election Commission for “trying to defeat his party in the 11 April Assembly and Lok Sabha polling”. Naidu on Saturday rushed to Delhi to lodge a complaint with the EC and meet with like-minded political parties to discuss the issue of bringing back the ballot paper in place of EVMs.
He will also file a review petition in the Supreme Court on Monday on re-introducing ballot papers in place of EVMs (electronic voting machines), post “certain incidents” that occurred in the first phase of polling in his state. Naidu’s TDP was among the 21 political parties that had moved the Supreme Court seeking counting of at least 50% Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips, to avoid tampering of the machines.
The SC, however, ordered for the counting of VVPATs in five booths from each Lok Sabha constituency—amounting to 35 polling booths from each seat, as each Lok Sabha seat consists of seven Assembly segments. Presently, the EC is counting at random of one VVPAT slip from each Assembly segment. The EC told the Apex Court that counting of 50% of VVPATs would take five days to declare the results.
This time, Naidu is going to not only renew his demand for counting of 50% of all VVPATs, but also to bring back the old system of ballot papers for checking tampering of the machines. “The EC is not impartial and our election system is in great danger. I am going to meet other Opposition leaders to pursue my campaign of Save India, Save Democracy,” Naidu told the media in Amaravati on Friday.
Ever since polling was midway in Andhra Pradesh on Thursday, Naidu appeared restive and vented his ire against the poll panel for its role in the conduct of elections in Andhra Pradesh. Technical glitches in EVMs at many places, especially in areas where the TDP is strong, and incidents of violence have prompted him to train his guns at the EC.
In fact, Naidu went to the office of Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) G.K. Dwivedi in Amaravati on 10 April, a day before the polling and lodged his complaint against a series of decisions taken by the EC recently, like removal of AP Chief Secretary (CS) A.C. Punetha and appointment of L.V. Subramanyam in his place, transfer of several IPS officers, including Intelligence DG A.B. Venkateswara Rao and some SPs.
Naidu sat on the road for a while in protest against the EC’s “biased role” against his TDP, but he called it off in view of the security concerns voiced by the police. Now, Naidu may sit in a dharna in Delhi after meeting the EC top brass on Saturday. Naidu called his ministers and senior leaders to Delhi so that they, too, could join him in the protest. He has invited some Opposition leaders to join him.
Naidu attacked the EC in the strongest terms and dubbed it as “a tool in the hands of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP”. “The EC is acting as per the directives from the PM’s Office and the BJP leadership who want to help Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSR Congress in Andhra. Modi, Telangana CM KCR and Jagan have joined hands to defeat me,” Naidu said at his Friday media conference.
The AP CM found fault with ECs’ decision to appoint Subramanyam as the state CS. Subramanyam went to jail in a disproportionate assets case related to Jagan. “Everyone knows that he (Subramanyam) is close to Jagan; how can the EC appoint him as the CS? When I am the valid CM, how can they (EC) bypass me in appointing a CS?” Naidu asked.
Naidu pointed out that Subramanyam as CS went to the DGP office and reviewed the law and order situation from there. “This is an unheard of situation, where a CS goes to the DGP office. They want to threaten me through these moves, but I am not afraid of them. I am a fighter and will continue to fight till the end,” the CM said.
Naidu found fault with the CEO for making light of the EVM glitches in Andhra on 11 April. “How can he dismiss that only a small number of EVMs gave some trouble when as many as one third of them didn’t work for three to four hours in some key constituencies, including Mangalagiri (from where his son Lokesh contested)?” Naidu asked.
Naidu alleged that a large number of bogus voters had come from Telangana on the polling day and voted for Jagan through EVMs and the EC failed to check this rigging. “Even the BJP which has no presence in Andhra, worked for Jagan. They want to install a puppet government in AP just like in Tamil Nadu,” Naidu said.
At the same time, the TDP chief made it clear that he was not launching this campaign against the EC just because of a possible defeat in the state. “Despite these irregularities, we are winning mainly due to the courageous support extended by our sisters and brothers who turned up for polling in large numbers, but my fight against the EC is a principled one,” Naidu said.