Demanding that the Maharashtra Assembly elections be held using paper ballots instead of EVMs, opposition parties in the State on Friday announced a protest march on the issue in Mumbai on August 21. Taking centre stage, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray brought together State Congress president Balasaheb Thorat, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leaders Ajit Pawar and Chhagan Bhujbal, farmers’ leader Raju Shetti, and representatives of left and socialist parties to address a press conference.Last month, Mr. Thackeray had met the Chief Election Commissioner in Delhi, demanding elections using paper ballots. He met UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi to discuss the matter four days ago, and also met West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to invite her to join the anti-EVM protests. On Friday, Mr. Pawar said, “We are not expressing distrust of anyone, but doubts are being raised over the use of EVMs. Any election must be fought in a transparent manner. A number of developed countries have stopped the use of EVMs. The demand to go back on ballot isn’t of any one particular party, but it is coming from the people and we will try to raise it at the appropriate levels.” Mr. Thackeray said using ballot papers will instil trust for the poll process among people. “People in the U.S. had raised suspicions over Donald Trump’s election as their president. The chips installed in the EVMs come from the U.S.,” he said.The MNS chief, whose party did not contest the general elections, said the opposition parties will seek citizens’ views on ballot papers and submit these forms to the Election Commission. He said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena, too, should join the August 21 protest march. “There will be no party flag at the protest,” he said. He asked what the harm was to switch to paper ballots if the ruling parties were confident of winning 220 to 225 Assembly seats.When asked about the BJP pointing towards its loss in the Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh Assembly polls despite the use of EVMs, Mr. Thackeray accused the party of “creating an illusion.” He said that the BJP’s target was to retain power at the Centre and not in these States. “So, all these results were only for the satisfaction of you all,” he said, suggesting the BJP lost these polls to deflate the opposition’s criticism of the EVMs. Mr. Thorat said it was the demand of the people that elections be held on ballot paper. “And when people have doubts in their minds, it is the responsibility of the Election Commission and the government to clear those doubts,” the Congress leader said.On Thursday, Maharashtra Chief Electoral Officer Baldev Singh had said EVMs are technically secure and can never record a false vote. He said these machines have a very robust security protocol and can’t be tampered with or manipulated.Meanwhile, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who is on a tour of the State, slammed the opposition over the demand. “Accusations against EVMs reflect a mistrust of voters. Instead of blaming EVMs, the opposition should introspect why it has lost connect with the people,” he said at a press conference in Wardha on Friday. Mr Fadnavis said the opposition parties, too, have ruled the State and country on the basis of EVMs. They should instead admit their wrongs to the people and tell them how they would rectify their mistakes if given a chance again, he said.