Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora on Thursday asserted that the Election Commission will not be "intimidated or bullied" into giving up electronic voting machines (EVMs) and going back to the era of ballot boxes.
Amid renewed demands against the use of EVMs, he said the issue was being used as a "football" and some sections are doing a "motivated slugfest" over their use.
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"However, I would like to make it very, very clear once more. In fact, it is not I, it is the entire ECI, it is the ECIs of the past, and it will be the ECIs of the future... we are not going back to the era of ballot papers," Arora said.
"We are not going back to that era where we have ballot papers being lifted, musclemen being employed besides the delay in the counting and also too much harassment of polling staff on the ground," he added.
The CEC made the remarks at an international conference on 'Making our Elections Inclusive & Accessible' here ahead of National Voters Day on Friday.
He also made it clear that EC was open to criticism but not ready to be "intimidated" or "bullied" into giving up the use of EVMs.
"We are open to any criticism, any feedback, from any stakeholders, including political parties, because they are the biggest stakeholders. But at the same time, we are not going to be intimidated or bullied or pressurised or coerced into giving up these (EVMs and paper trail machines) and starting the era of ballot boxes," he said.
"Why have we made it (EVM) like a football, and doing a motivated slugfest over it," he wondered.
His remarks came days after a self-proclaimed cyber expert claimed the machines can be hacked and the 2014 Lok Sabha elections were rigged.
Delhi Police has since lodged an FIR against unknown persons and is investigating the case based on the complaint filed by the poll panel.
Following his claims, several opposition parties have demanded the use of ballot papers in the coming Lok Sabha polls.
Defending EVMs, the CEC said there was one result in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and a totally different result four months later in the Delhi state elections.
"Since then, we have had elections in Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Tripura, Nagaland , Mizoram, and now Chattisgarh, MP, Telangana, Rajasthan... The results have been completely different in different times... my simple question is that if the result is X, the EVM is right and the result turns out to be Y, the EVM is faulted," he said.
Arora pointed out that EVMs and paper trail machines are manufactured under highly secured conditions by two PSUs -- Bharat Electronics Ltd and Electronics Corporation of India Ltd -- who are doing a lot of work for defence establishments.
In the recent assembly elections in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram and Telangana, a total of six incidents were reported.
"I am repeating, six anecdotal or real incidents out of 1,76,000 polling booths. I am not defending those incidents.There were some lapses on those EVMs, that were not even used for the elections by the cutting edge staff. Actions were taken very swiftly, and they met their nemesis in 24 to 48 hours. However, we are not happy even with those six incidents. In elections, we should have zero tolerance for any incident of such nature," he said.
Referring to paper trail machines, the CEC said it is "slightly of recent origin" and there have been some incidents.
"It is a kind of trial by learning. But the learning is by and large over. Of course, learning in life is never over. I am talking of learning in terms of incidents in failures on the ground," he said.
(With PTI inputs)