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Updated December 29th, 2023 at 18:27 IST

Fearing BJP's 400, Rahul Gandhi's Main Man Sam Pitroda has an excuse ready

Congress leader Sam Pitroda said the BJP can win more than 400 seats in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections if issues associated with EVMs are not "fixed".

Digital Desk
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NEW DELHI: Raising concerns over electronic voting machines, Congress leader Sam Pitroda on Thursday said the BJP can win more than 400 seats in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections if issues associated with EVMs are not "fixed".

The elections will be about deciding the destiny of India, he told PTI-Video in an interview.

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While the Election Commission has always dismissed apprehensions over EVMs and also held hackathons to clear any doubts, some opposition leaders, including from the Congress, have been repeatedly raising the issue of EVMs allegedly being open to manipulation.

Many in the Congress have also asserted, including after the recent assembly polls in which the party lost some key heartland states, that they trust these machines. However, the Congress and other opposition parties have been demanding 100 per cent Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) and that the slips should be given to voters rather than falling into boxes.

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Congress leader Pitroda also said that his recent comments on the Ram temple in Ayodhya were "twisted" and asserted that religion is a personal matter and should not be mixed with politics.

He was quoted in reports as saying it bothers him that the entire nation is hung up on the Ram temple.

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On Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's upcoming Manipur-to-Mumbai Bharat Nyay Yatra ahead of the polls, Pitroda said, "The next election is about the future of India. What kind of nation we want to build." "Do you want to build a nation articulated in our Constitution which respects all religions, autonomy of our institutions, which allows our civil society to function, or you want to build the nation based on one religion dominating?" he asked.

Expressing concern over electronic voting machines (EVMs), Pitroda cited a report by NGO 'The Citizens' Commission on Elections', chaired by former Supreme Court judge Madan B Lokur, and said that the main recommendations of the report were to modify the current design of the VVPAT system to make it truly "voter-verified".

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"I waited for the Election Commission to respond but when it didn't happen I decided to speak. It has nothing to do with the fact that elections in five states are over and the 2024 election is coming," Pitroda said.

"I feel there is a trust deficit based on this report. And, the Election Commission must respond to rebuild the trust," he said.

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The Congress leader said he believes that democracy is derailed and "we are becoming too authoritarian". "It's all about one-man show," he said.

Asked about the BJP's claim that it would win more than 400 seats in the general elections, he said," More power to them if they think they can do it. Great. That is for the country to decide. EVM needs to be fixed before the next election. If EVM is not fixed, 400 may be true. If EVM is fixed 400 may not be true." 

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On his comments about the Ram temple, Pitroda said, "My comments on the Ram mandir got twisted. I am basically protecting the Constitution. I am saying that religion is a very personal matter, leave it to the people. Of course you celebrate, people should celebrate what they want to. But don't complicate with politics." 

Asked about opposition INDIA bloc, of which the Congress is also a part, not picking Rahul Gandhi as its prime ministerial face, Pitroda said, "The INDIA alliance is not projecting anybody for the PM post." The alliance has collectively decided that "we get to that after the election because right now the priority is to mobilise 60 per cent of the people who don't vote for the BJP", he said and added that the members of the bloc will decide as a group who should be the prime ministerial candidate. 

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"Collectively, the group decided that it will not project anybody as its PM candidate. Those are two out of how many who pitched (Congress president Mallikarjun) Kharge's name. In a coalition like that there are bound to be some differences. That's the beauty of a coalition," Pitroda said.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who is the TMC supremo, and her Delhi counterpart and AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal had pitched Kharge's name as the bloc's prime ministerial face at its meeting in Delhi on December 19.

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On the opposition face against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Pitroda said, "I don't think that's the right question to be asked. It is not a presidential election, it is a parliamentary election." 

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Published December 28th, 2023 at 14:03 IST

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