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Congress, AAP demand probe after VVPAT dispenses only BJP slips during EVM demo in MP; EC seeks report

AAP and Congress approached Election Commission seeking investigation into alleged cases of EVM tampering.

India TV Politics Desk, New Delhi [Updated:01 Apr 2017, 9:24 PM IST]
Congress, AAP demand probe after VVPAT dispenses only BJP
Congress, AAP demand probe after VVPAT dispenses only BJP slips during EVM demoPhoto:REPRESENTATIVE IMAGE

The Opposition demand to scarp Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) during polls intensified today with Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Congress both approaching the Election Commission of India (EC) seeking investigation into alleged cases of EVM tampering. 

A Congress delegation met the Election Commission and sought an investigation into a case in Madhya Pradesh where an EVM -- during a demonstration to media -- printed slips of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) no matter which button was pressed.

VVPAT-enabled machines would be used at Assembly by-elections at Ater in Bhind district and Bandhavgarh in Umaria district on 9 April.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal urged the Election Commission to investigate cases of faulty EVMs to ascertain if they were tampered with to favour the BJP in recent elections.

Kejriwal said Friday's case in MP's Bhind was not an isolated incident. He also demanded that paper trail of votes be re-implemented for all elections in the country.

"I have been repeatedly saying that these machines are being tampered with at a very large scale. Similar machines also surfaced in Assam and Delhi Cantonment where no matter which party you vote for, the vote only goes to the BJP," he said.

He asked why was it that every defective machine favoured the BJP and not any other political party.

"It means these machines are being tampered with and their software have been changed."

Kejriwal said that while the Election Commission says that the chips of the EVMs can't be written on, "but it clearly doesn't seem to be the case".

The Delhi Chief Minister added that before the elections, the Election Commission conducts demo of 20-25 machines but if any machine is found to be defective, they just change that machine but don't order any inquiry.

"Just in Delhi (civic polls), 12,000 machines going to be used. They all can't be checked. If one machine is found to be defective, it raises questions on the others too," he said.

"It raises question if people are casting their votes or if machines are doing it," he asked.

Kejriwal said in all three incidents where the defective machines were found, the Election Commission did not issue an inquiry if they were tampered with.

"I have demanded that a technical investigation into all these incidents be conducted so it could be found if the machines were tampered with, and if so, who was responsible," he said.

"Otherwise, no matter who people vote for, only lotus would bloom from the 'keechad' of EVMs," he added, in a reference to the lotus symbol of the BJP.

The Delhi civic polls would be conducted on April 23 and results would be declared on April 26.

Congress urges EC to scrap EVMs, return to ballot papers 

Crying foul over efficacy of EVMs in Madhya Pradesh, the Congress today knocked at the doors of the Election Commission and demanded scrapping its use in upcoming elections while reverting to old ballot paper system. 

Citing the incident of Bhind where VVPAT machines dispensed slips only with BJP symbol, a delegation of Congress leaders met Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi and two other ECs seeking a thorough probe and strict action against officials involved. 

The delegation comprised Digivijaya Singh, Jytiraditya Scindia, Mohan Prakash, K C Mittal and Vivek Tankha, who told the EC to discontinue use of EVMs. 

"All parties should be taken into confidence for the credibility and viability of use of EVMs or to revert back to the old system of ballot papers," the Congress delegation said. 

"In the face of revelations about tampering of EVMs, it is necessary that the entire process be re-examined thoroughly and all agencies and persons involved in maintenance, operation and data feedings of machines be examined before use of EVMs in further elections," the party said in a memorandum. 

Congress general secretary Mohan Prakash said, "In a democracy, time and again there have been doubts created on EVMs. We have demanded that elections be held on ballot paper because every section has created doubts on EVMs. If there are doubts on votes cast, then democracy is weakened." 

Another party general secretary Digvijay Singh said, "The next elections, be it in Gujarat or elsewhere, should be held with ballot papers and the use of EVMs be stopped." He also questioned the "compulsion" of "using EVMs whose chip was imported". 

Singh added, "From (LK Advani) Advani to Mayawati to (Arvind) Kejriwal, I stand with them on this."

He argued that if the Bank of Bangladesh's account can be hacked and 80 million Dollars be stolen, besides 30 million dollars from the Russian bank, "then why can't EVMs be tampered". 

"When elections all over the world, including in the developed countries, are taking place with ballot paper, why should we have problems in doing so," Singh said, adding he had doubts on the efficacy of EVMs right from day one. 

Scindia said, "We hope that the EC will seriously act on our complaint and EC has assured us that it will seriously look into complaints raised by us." 

EC orders probe into reports of 'EVM malfunction' in Bhind

The Election Commission has sought a detailed report from the district poll authorities in Bhind, Madhya Pradesh on media reports that VVPAT was only dispensing slips of BJP symbol during a demonstration exercise.

An Assembly bypoll is due in Bhind next week and the demonstration was part of the familiarisation exercise. "We have sought a detailed report from district election officer and would come up with a response in the evening," a Commission spokesperson said.

The voters see Voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) slip for seven seconds, which would be an acknowledgement receipt for the party they voted for in the election. VVPAT is a machine which dispenses a slip with the symbol of the party for which a person has voted for. The slip drops in a box but the voter cannot take it home. According to media reports, the receipt showed the vote going to BJP, irrespective of button pressed, during the demonstration.

The reports also claimed that Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Madhya Pradesh, Saleena Singh was seen telling journalists that the news should not appear in newspapers, else they would be detained at the police station.

MP Chief Electoral Officer denies report 

Meanwhile, in a hurriedly called press conference in Bhopal on Saturday, 

Madhya Pradesh Chief Electoral Officer Saleena Singh, in a hurriedly called press conference in Bhopal on Saturday, denied the reports that VVPAT dispensed only BJP slips. 

"During the demonstration, the VVPAT first dispensed a slip with (BJP's) lotus symbol but the second one had (Congress') hand symbol," she said.

A report on the issue has been sent to the Election Commission by her office and the district poll authorities, she said.  

Singh explained that if the VVPAT slip doesn't reflect the voter's choice correctly, he or she can file a declaration, and the election officer will have to follow a set procedure to verify the claim.

If the officer finds the claim to be correct, the voting will be stopped, the CEO said. "If it is other way round (if the claim is incorrect) the voter will be booked and can face six months' imprisonment or a fine of Rs 1,000 or both after trial (under the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961)," she said.

Asked about the reports that she threatened to send mediapersons to jail if they continued to say that VVPAT was dispensing only BJP slips, Singh said, "It was in a lighter vein."

"Some elements, not mediapersons, twisted the issue," she added.

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati was the first to allege EVM tampering after BJP's massive win in UP Aassembly elections. SP president Akhilesh Yadab supported her demand of investigation. 

AAP, which had hoped to form government in Punjab, also alleged tampering of the voting machines. 

BJP veteran Advani had raised doubts about possibility of EVMs malfunctioning after the 2009 elections when UPA emerged victorious second time in a row. 

(With agencies)