India probably needs to go back to ballots: Dipankar Bhattacharya

The CPI(M-L) Liberation leader says this is his party's stand, which is shared by many other parties—and had nothing to do with the 2024 general election results

Dipankar Bhattacharya, general secretary, CPI(M-L) Liberation (file photo)
Dipankar Bhattacharya, general secretary, CPI(M-L) Liberation (file photo)


Amid concerns raised by opposition parties over EVMs, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya said the country may probably have to go back to ballot papers.

In an interview with PTI editors at the agency's headquarters here, the CPI (ML) Liberation leader also raised concerns over the alleged "saffronisation" of education and the stock market "scam" driven by the exit polls.

Highlighting his concerns around the conduct of the 2024 general elections and the EVMs, Bhattacharya said the opposition had sought 100 per cent VVPAT counting in the elections, but it was turned down by the Supreme Court.

The Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) is an independent vote verification system which permits an elector to see whether his vote was cast correctly. The VVPAT generates a paper slip which can be viewed by the voter and the paper slip is kept in a sealed cover and can be opened in case of a dispute. However, all votes recorded on EVMs are not cross-verified with VVPAT — slips from five randomly selected polling stations per constituency are matched with the EVM count.

"The Election Commission also didn't agree. So I think now, at the end of the day, probably this country will have to go back to the ballots... That is my personal feeling," he said.

Bhattacharya said this is his party's stand, which was shared by many other parties, but added he couldn't be too sure about all the parties in the country.

"This has nothing to do with election results. Usually, these BJP people, they say that this is a loser's argument. Every time we lose an election, then we talk about EVM. That's not the case. After all, elections are all about transparency and trust of the people."

"So what's the point in having an elaborate electoral exercise where the people do not really trust it completely?" he said.

The CPI (ML) Liberation leader said the demands are only likely to grow as the Election Commission doesn't offer "convincing explanations".

"They almost are so reluctant, so economical with their answers... So I hope that maybe in the coming days it becomes a major issue and we do have a transition back to ballots," he said.

Asked what can be the way forward, he said, "I think it has to be a kind of popular upsurge. Because if the system doesn't respond, how do you do it? There are times when the people make themselves heard in ways that the system has to respond eventually," he said.

"If people will strongly believe that the elections have been rigged, you can think of a popular upheaval in the country. In a democracy, I think that's not a bad idea," he said.

Asked if ballots may bring back the era of booth capturing, he said that it is called 'booth capturing' and not 'ballot capturing'. "I don't think it has anything to do with the ballots or actual technique or method of voting," he said.

Commenting on the recent irregularities in exams conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA) and the cancellation of exams, he said centralisation of exams is a bad idea.

"I think all these things which start with 'one'... these are terribly disastrous, bad ideas. Whether it is 'one nation, one election', one language, one party, one leader, one examination'. These are all bad ideas. And if you try and impose these ideas, then such things will happen, the system will be rigged," he said.

He also said attempts at saffronisation of the elections have been going on since the Atal Bihari Vajpayee era.

"Saffronisation has been going on since the Vajpayee era, or even before that. That's the very core agenda of the BJP and the RSS, controlling the minds, influencing the academic environment, the literary environment in the country, and the media," he said.

"Beyond saffronisation, what is actually happening is complete privatisation, and I'll call it the 'elitisation' of education. So once again, education, which Ambedkar thought would be a tool of social justice and mobility, is being denied to people. It is the only thing which can bring about some tangible improvement in the lives of people, short of any radical redistribution of land or wealth," he said.

On the ongoing controversy around the exit polls and the allegations of a stock market scam, Bhattacharya said they support the demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee, and the issue will be raised by the INDIA bloc in Parliament.

"It's something unthinkable, unheard of. Prime minister and home minister advising people to buy shares. Our prime minister, he's an exam warrior, keeps giving advice to students. I think that is again some unsolicited advice, and students would be better off without that advice.

"Similarly, investors also would be better off without this kind of advice, which almost borders on insider trading, which violates the SEBI norms," he added.

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