NEW DELHI : A number of opposition leaders, including Congress President Sonia Gandhi, on Wednesday met President Pranab Mukherjee on the EVM issue and raised concerns over what they called an "environment of fear and insecurity" in the country.
A delegation of 13 parties that called on the President included Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi and senior party leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge, Communist Party of India-Marxist General Secretary Sitaram Yechury and Sharad Yadav of the Janata Dal-United.
They submitted a memorandum to the President on alleged tampering with the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) during the February-March assembly elections, undermining of constitutional institutions, attacks on minority community members by lumpen elements in Rajasthan and elsewhere, and unabated violence in Jammu and Kashmir, among others.
The delegation sought his intervention to protect India's democracy, preserve its plurality and diversity, safeguard fundamental rights and ensure that the rule of law is upheld in letter and spirit, a Congress leader said.
"Through our memorandum, we drew his attention to the recent critical developments which have seriously undermined accepted norms of governance and institutional integrity," said Azad, the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.
Arbitrariness in decision-making and the appointments to key constitutional positions in brazen disregard of established procedures and practices was a matter of concern, he said, adding: "The environment of fear and insecurity is prevailing in the country and voices of dissent are being muzzled."
"Triggering false debates, orchestrating inflammatory narratives on nationalism, exploiting religious sentiments and threats of violence to the citizens are vitiating the environment and jeopardising the cause of peace and security."
"Self-styled lumpen elements have indulged in violence and mob lynching of citizens and harassment is being witnessed across the country. In Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, a number of such incidents have taken place," he said.
"We also informed the President about how non-BJP-ruled states are being destabilised by the central government through misuse of power of Governors and by creating artificial majority (in Goa and Manipur) through unethical means," Azad added.
Azad said continued violence in Jammu and Kashmir, resulting in deaths and injuries to civilians and an overall failure of governance in the state, was a matter of great national concern.
"It is imperative that the government addresses the crisis and creates an reassuring environment for the people to participate in the democratic process and cast their votes without intimidation and violence," he said.
The memorandum said: "The government is misusing its brute majority in the Lok Sabha to scuttle parliamentary debate and scrutiny of bills by refusing to refer the same to the Standing Committees."
"Many key bills masked as money bills expose the intention of the government to deny the council of states its constitutional position in the enactment of laws. Changing 11 Acts through the omnibus Finance Bill 2017 is unprecedented, improper and shocking," the memorandum said.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal wrote to the State Election Commissioner on Wednesday and urged him not to use EVMs brought from Rajastan during the April 23 municipal corporation elections in Delhi, claiming they were all tampered with.
Kejriwal demanded that the civic polls be held through Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) along with Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) and that too after all political parties are given a chance to technically examine them randomly.
Kejriwal earlier alleged that 18 EVMs registered votes only for the BJP during the Dholpur assembly by-election in Rajasthan, no matter which button was pressed.
Leaders of various opposition parties had also met the Election Commission authorities on Monday on the EVM issue.
The senior Congress leader said the Commission assured on an all-party meeting on the issue.