Raj Thackeray meets Mamata over anti-EVM campaign (Lead)

Kolkata, July 31 (IANS) Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray on Wednesday met West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and invited her to his party's campaign to shun Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and return to ballot papers for future elections.

Claiming that there were reports of glitches in the EVMs in 370 parliamentary constituencies in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Thackeray said that his party will launch a massive campaign against using EVMs in Indian elections in which several opposition leaders, including Banerjee and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, will be present.

"I came to meet Mamataji for the sole reason of discussing the developments regarding EVMs and VVPATs. We will take out a morcha (campaign) in Maharashtra regarding this. Mamataji is one of the senior leaders in the country," Thackeray said after his meeting with Banerjee at the state secretariat, Nabanna.

"I have invited her (Banerjee) to attend our programme on August 21. She and her party has expressed their support towards our initiative and agreed to be with us in this battle against EVMs. She has been selflessly working to save democracy in the country," he said.

Thackeray said that their movement is not against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but against EVMs.

"This is an anti-EVM movement. It is not anti-Modi. But if being anti-EVM means being anti-Modi, we are okay with it," he said.

"EVM voting has been cancelled in several countries across the world. Then why is it still being used in India? The future elections should be conducted on ballot papers instead of EVMs," he added.

Banerjee, one of the most vocal critics of EVMs, herself gave a call to shun the voting machines and return to ballot papers during Trinamool Congress' Martyrs' Day rally on July 21.

Asked whether he would move the court against the usage of EVMs, Thackeray said he has lost faith in high courts, the Supreme Court as well as the Election Commission.

Banerjee also advocated the need to go back to balot papers for the elections and said many developed countries like Japan, UK and the US have shunned EVMs while India is still using it.

"How will people keep faith (on EVMs), if someone can say exactly how many seats will his party get even before the election is held? EVMs are not used in developed countries like Japan, UK or the US. Then why do we use it even after knowing that the device is questionable?" she asked.

"Before the elections, 23 opposition parties had approached the Election Commission and moved the Supreme Court on this issue. But our case was set aside. This is not an old issue. This has been going on since 1995," she said.

The Trinamool Congress supremo, however, said she is yet to take a call on attending Thackeray's campaign in Maharashtra.

"We will work together to save democracy. They will also launch a campaign on August 21 to save democracy and demand that we do not want elections using EVMs but ballot papers.

"He has also invited me for the programme to be held in Maharashtra. But I have many pre-scheduled programmes, so I have told him that I will take a call on that and let him know," Banerjee added.

--IANS

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