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New Delhi: Stressing that communication is important in a democracy, former chief election commissioner S Y Quraishi on Tuesday said the election commission should call an all-party meeting to address concerns over the EVMs. Amid concerns being raised by several opposition parties over the electronic voting machines (EVMs), the former CEC said while he defends the EVMs, communication is important in democracy and so the election commission (EC) should call a meeting of the political parties and address the concerns.

“I have been defending EVMs for the last 15 years. If EVM is manipulatable could the BJP have lost Karnataka so badly? The PM had addressed 34 rallies… They lost Himachal, Punjab, West Bengal… ” he said during an interaction with journalists at the Indian Women’s Press Corps. “In 2009, the movement against EVMs was at its peak, BJP leader G V L Narasimha Rao had even written a book, today BJP is the biggest defender of the EVM. When I became the CEC, we called an all-party meeting, which is what I will recommend to the EC even now. Political parties are the biggest stakeholders,” he said.

“The EC should not be quiet on the issue. If I was CEC, I would call all political parties,” he said. “If the election commission does not talk, they (political parties) go to the Supreme Court. The EC is letting go of their power. Communication is important. You cannot shut your doors in democracy, especially for the election commission which is the guardian of democracy,” he said.

He also dismissed the argument that counting VVPATs would take more time. “What is the problem in counting 100 per cent VVPATs? The election commission has said it will take four-five days… Nation waits for two-and-a-half months from the first to the last day of election… What is the problem?” he said.

Asked about ‘One Nation One Election’, Quraishi said there is a risk that it may lead to local issues being subjugated by national issues. “There are some positives and some negatives. At all three levels, whether it is Lok Sabha, Vidhan Sabha or Panchayat, the voters are the same, booths are the same, the district administration, security apparatus are the same. It is simple that a voter can press buttons on three machines instead of one… It is simpler. It is also beneficial for the election commission that they can hold elections at one go and be free for the next five years,” he said.

“But what is the counter? People like elections being held. People have only one power, that is their vote. You will be snatching away their power. Repeated elections allow people to have a say. Mayawati had said repeated elections suit people,” he said. “Only two parties can have a problem with repeated elections – the election commission, but it is our job, we get paid for it… The other is politicians, why are they troubled? Politics is about winning elections. So it is not right to say that repeated elections are a problem.

“The third thing is that the issues are different in the three elections, and all are equally important constitutionally. If I am in a village, there is garbage in front of my house, would I be concerned about that in the Panchayat election or about India’s policy in Ukraine? Local issues should not be allowed to be subjugated by national issues. Perhaps that is the intent, to overshadow local issues with national issues. Here comes federalism, every state has local dynamics,” he added.

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