EC to hold EVM challenge with used machines
Four parties — BSP, TMC, Panthers Party, PMK — stick to demand for reversal to ballot papers
After many political parties alleged that tampering of electronic voting machines (EVMs) led to their defeat the recently held assembly polls, the Election Commission on Friday said it will throw an “open challenge” to all political parties to try and tamper the EVMs used in the last polls held in five states. However, at the end of an all-party meeting on the issue, only four political parties -- BSP, TMC, Panthers Party and the PMK -- stuck to the demand for reversal to ballot papers.
The Aam Aadmi Party, which had been harping on the tampering of the EVMs and had also held a live demonstration of EVM tinkering within the precincts of the Delhi Assembly recently, was among the parties, including Congress, Left, Janata Dal (United) and others, which did not demand reversal to ballot papers.
AAP’s Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, who had earlier claimed that the Election Commission (EC) has backed out of a “hackathon,” said his party had already proved that EVMs can be hacked and was ready for the EC challenge. “Our party will prove again that the EVMs can be tampered with.”
Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Nasim Zaidi confirmed EC’s challenge after the meeting and invited all parties to get technocrats to see whether the EVMs can be hacked.
At the meeting, Zaidi dismissed queries raised by some political parties about the incidents of alleged EVM manipulation at Bhind (MP) and Dholpur (Rajasthan) during the recently concluded by-elections and said that baseless perceptions were generated about these incidents and there was no case of biased poll results.
Zaidi also maintained that the EC had no favourites. “We maintain equal distance from all parties and groups. It is our constitutional and moral duty to stand dead centre of the circle drawn around us by 56 political parties.”
EC had sent invitations to seven national parties and 48 regional parties, out of which only 35 regional parties attended the meet.
The poll body has, however, not yet fixed any date for the challenge. It said that in all future polls, EVMs would be enabled with 100 per cent Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT), which is a kind of receipt of voting.
Many parties wanted the duration of visibility of the VVPAT slip to be increased from the current 7 seconds to at least 20 seconds for the voter to be satisfied. Many also demanded that paper audit should be counted separately. But the EC ruled out all VVPAT slips being counted and instead only promised to do random counting of around 25 per cent of the paper slips.
Congress’ Vivek Tankha, who represented his party at the meeting, said his party wanted the EC to clear the doubts of doubts in the minds of the people about EVMs, but did not demand a reversal to the ballot paper system of voting.
CPI-M leader Nilotpal Basu said his party was against reverting to the ballot system, as there was a need to move ahead with technology. “We cannot go back to where we started from.”
The JD-U also stuck to the same position saying ballot papers had led to large-scale cases of booth capturing in the past and that it was not in favour of reverting to that.
Sources said that BSP’s Satish Mishra maintained his party’s earlier stance and sought a reversal to the ballot paper system. Trinamool Congress leader Mukul Roy also demanded the same.