Kejriwal, Cong cry foul over EVMs; EC asks Andhra official to oversee MP bypolls

A purported video of an EVM trial ahead of by-polls in Madhya Pradesh showed the paper trail attached to it generating a receipt for the BJP when state chief electoral officer Saleena Singh pressed the button for the Samajwadi Party candidate.

india Updated: Apr 19, 2017 22:10 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times, New Delhi/Bhopal
Arvind Kejriwal,EVM malfunctioning,Election Commission
Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal with other leader’s leave at ECI headquarters after meeting the Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi.(Sonu Mehta/HT Photo)

The Election Commission on Saturday asked the Andhra Pradesh chief electoral officer to supervise by-elections in Madhya Pradesh after a controversy erupted over the malfunctioning of an electronic voting machine in the state.

The poll panel’s order came after Congress and Aam Aadmi Party leaders knocked on its doors, alleging fudging of voting machines -- a concern some opposition parties first raised after the BJP’s unexpectedly massive victory in Uttar Pradesh elections last month.

The election commission also transferred Bhind collector Iliyaraja T and superintendent of police Anil Singh Kushwaha out of the district. Madhya Pradesh holds by-polls to two assembly seats next week.

The row erupted after a purported video of an electronic voting machine (EVM) trial ahead of the by-polls showed the paper trail attached to it generating a receipt for the BJP when state chief electoral officer Saleena Singh pressed the button for the Samajwadi Party candidate.

A Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail or VVPAT allows a voter to know if the machine registered a vote for the candidate selected. The slip is visible for seven seconds before it drops into a box.

“There is an extraordinary suspicion about the fairness of the EVMs post recently conducted elections – especially in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand,” the Congress said in a memorandum to the election commission.

“Apparently the polling in these states did not reflect the public mood and confidence as noticed by national parties.”

AAP leader and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal also met the poll panel officials and told them that EVMs were being repeatedly fudged and that their software could be faulty. Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav too weighed in on the controversy, demanding an inquiry into allegations of EVM fraud.

Both Congress and AAP demanded reverting to the old ballot paper system.

Shortly after the Uttar Pradesh elections last month, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati had alleged that the EVMs used in the state were fudged. Kejriwal had echoed those allegations. At the time, the election commission had rejected the charge.

In the video of the purported EVM trial in Bhind on Friday, state chief electoral officer Singh was seen looking surprised on seeing the VVPAT receipt. She is also purportedly heard laughing and warning journalists that they could face police detention if the incident was reported.

Local media widely reported the allegations. HT couldn’t independently verify the authenticity of the video clip.

Singh, however, dismissed the charges and said the EVM wasn’t fully calibrated.

“When you have a fully calibrated machine, this cannot happen like this. But they (journalists) misrepresented the facts without trying to understand the whole issue,” she told HT.

In a statement, the election commission said the team of officers, led by Andhra Pradesh CEO Bhanwar Lal, will supervise the implementation of all administrative and security instructions for conduct of elections.

“The integrity of EVMs and the VVPATs to be used in the poll will be demonstrated to the complete satisfaction of all stakeholders. These teams will remain in the assembly constituency till the counting is over,” the commission said.

But crying foul, a Congress delegation comprising Mohan Prakash, Digivijaya Singh, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Vivek Tankha and KC Mittal, knocked at the doors of chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi on Saturday and demanded scrapping the use of EVMs in upcoming elections.

The party also demanded that the election commission direct “impartial and unimpeachable” experts to revisit and re-verify the authenticity of all the voting machines being deployed in the two by-elections in Madhya Pradesh.

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

First Published: Apr 01, 2017 22:52 IST