A team of the Election Commission (EC) of India has found that the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) complaint of shifting of electronic voting machines (EVMs) from a strongroom at Patiala was baseless. The district administration has thus got a clean chit.
The EC team comprising Narender Chauhan, chief electoral officer (CEO) of Himachal Pradesh, and Rajesh Kumar, additional CEO of National Capital Region, Delhi, on Wednesday inspected the strongroom at Government College of Physical Education, Patiala, where a video of alleged shifting of EVMs was made by an AAP leader that was tweeted by party boss and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday.
The district administration had then too said the machines being shifted were those used in the 2015 municipal polls, not from the assembly polls held on February 4; and the intention was to make space for counting on March 11. But the AAP leadership met the chief election commissioner in Delhi on Tuesday about alleged violation of EVM security at many places in Punjab, after which the team was sent.
“The strongroom is intact. There is no violation. In fact, the administration has taken more measures than recommended by the EC to protect the strongroom,” said Chauhan.
AAP’s Nabha candidate Gurdev Singh ‘Dev’ Mann, who shot the video, was also present during inspection.
“The administration was creating more space for a computer room and the media for counting day. It was removing old EVMs as a routine exercise,” Chauhan said, adding, “At Patiala, deputy commissioner Ramvir Singh has ensure more precautions than recommended by the EC. Rather than two-tier security, the DC has ensured three-tier cover around the strongroom; candidates are allowed to put their own locks too.”
The team will visit Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Tarn Taran, too, from where complaints were filed by AAP leaders. “We will submit a report to the EC on Friday,” Chauhan said.
Asked if there could be action against the AAP for the “baseless” complaint, he said, “Our duty is limited to submitting a report on safety of the EVMs.”
Earlier, at a meeting of the team with political parties at Circuit House, only the AAP raised issues over EVMs’ safety, while the Congress, and the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal and BJP, among other parties, expressed “full faith” in the poll authorities.
Kejriwal, in the tweet, had said: “This is absolutely shocking. Punjab officials trying to remove EVM machines”. In another tweet, he had even alleged that “officers entered strongroom on the pretext of taking some papers but started removing EVMs”. This, he had done before any verification or formal complaint to the poll authorities from him.
It needs mention that the AAP has also filed a plea in the high court seeking directions for protection of EVMs.