New Delhi, Aug 2: Seventeen opposition parties, including the Trinamool Congress, are planning to approach the Election Commission demanding that ballot papers be used to conduct the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

“This is a matter on which all opposition parties agreed. We are planning to meet next week. We plan to go to Election Commission and demand that the EC conduct the coming Lok Sabha elections using ballot papers,” said TMC leader Derek O’ Brien on Thursday.

The initiative to solicit the support of all opposition parties on the matter was taken by TMC chief Mamata Banerjee yesterday, when she visited Parliament to meet opposition leaders and invite them for her planned rally in Kolkata on January 19.

Banerjee was heard appealing to opposition party leaders who visited her in the TMC office in Parliament, to send a joint delegation to the Election Commission over reports of EVM tampering and to demand that the 2019 general election be held on ballots.

“All opposition parties should go to EC on this matter. There should be a joint delegation of opposition parties to EC,” Banerjee was heard telling opposition party leaders, including from the Congress.

The TMC had staged protests outside Parliament, questioning the neutrality of electronic voting machines, and demanded that ballot papers be brought back for the 2019 Lok Sabha election. The ruling party in West Bengal said it is a “common programme” that will unite all opposition parties.

Interestingly, Banerjee had also urged the Shiv Sena, a BJP ally, to be a part of the delegation.

Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray previously demanded that the 2019 Lok Sabha election be conducted using ballot papers instead of EVMs.

Meanwhile, the BJP termed the opposition’s demand for using ballot papers in 2019 Lok Sabha polls an “excuse”, saying that feared “defeat” in the elections.

BJP MP Anurag Thakur said the opposition had lost the no-confidence motion with a decisive margin and they would lose the next general election too.

“The opposition do not have the leader to match the charisma of Narendra Modi. Under the leadership of Modiji and BJP chief Amit Shah, the party is set win the next elections. With fear of their defeat, (the) opposition is looking for excuses,” said Thakur.

Last month, the Congress had demanded restoration of the old system of conducting elections through ballot papers to replace the electronic voting machines (EVMs).

Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said leaders of 12 opposition parties were in agreement that EVMs should be removed and the older system should be brought back so that all parties have “faith in the election system”.

He said machines that are too “sensitive” to heat or cold cannot be trusted.

In March, the BJP had said that it is open to discussions on reverting to the use of ballot papers, instead of EVMs, in future elections if there was consensus among other parties on the matter.

Several political parties have alleged that EVMs are being tampered with ahead of polls, and demanded reintroduction of the ballot paper system of voting.

The authenticity of EVMs has come under scanner in recent months, following reports that several voting machines were recording votes only for the BJP, irrespective of the button pressed, during the Uttar Pradesh civic polls in November last year.

Soon after the UP Assembly elections in march 2017, in which the BJP claimed a thumping victory bagging 325 out of 403 seats, opposition parties including Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Congress and Aam Aadmi Party, levelled serious charges of EVM tampering, so much so that the Election Commission had to eventually defend the machines.