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Officials transporting dummy EVMs in Telangana at midnight fuel suspicion

Officials said the EVMs which were used in mock-polling in training for election authorities, were being shifted to the strong room and that the instructions had come late.

lok sabha elections Updated: Apr 16, 2019 19:05 IST
Srinivasa Rao Apparasu
Srinivasa Rao Apparasu
Hindustan Times, Hyderabad
Lok Sabha elections 2019,General elections 2019,Telangana
The dummy EVMs were being shifted from the local tehsildar’s office to the strong room at the Indoor Stadium in Jagitial in an auto rickshaw.(HT PHOTO)

In yet another instance that raised suspicions over foolproof security of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), some officials of Telangana’s Jagitial district were found shifting large number of the machines in an auto rickshaw late Monday night without any police protection.

The security and reliability of EVMs in the elections have triggered a nationwide debate with Telugu Desam Party president and Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu taking up the issue to the national level and demanding that the Election Commission revert to the ballot paper system.

At around midnight, media persons in Jagitial town, about 200 km north of Hyderabda, were tipped off that some EVMs were being shifted from the local tehsildar’s office to the strong room at the Indoor Stadium in an auto rickshaw. They rushed to the spot and filmed the episode of unloading of EVMs in the vehicle.

“When we enquired with the officials, they told us that the EVMs which were used in mock-polling in training for election authorities, were being shifted to the strong room. But by the time they went to the strong room, it was already locked and so, they returned to the tehsildar office to unload the same,” Srinivas, senior reporter of a vernacular daily in Jagitial, said.

He said a couple of days ago, some more EVMs were transported in a car to the strong room. “When we questioned the authorities as to why they were shifting the EVMs only at midnight, they said they got the instructions late,” Srinivas said.

Jagitial falls under Nizamabad parliamentary constituency where voting took place on April 11 with a record number of 185 candidates in the fray. Telangana Rashtra Samithi president and chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao’s daughter Kalvakuntla Kavitha is the sitting MP.

Jagitial joint collector B Rajesham said the EVMs which were shifted in an auto rickshaw on Monday night were model EVMs of M2 make used in training for election officers. “In the actual polling, we used M3 make EVMs, which are of bigger size due to large number of contestants. So, there is no need for any apprehensions that the EVMs were shifted to manipulate votes. The actual EVMs used in polling are safe and secure in the strong room,” he said.

He, however, said action would be taken against officials for trying to shift the EVMs during the midnight, which led to suspicions.

Telangana Chief Electoral Officer Rajat Kumar also clarified in the afternoon that the EVMs shifted in auto rickshaw in Jagitial were used in training and not in the polling.

Bharatiya Janata Party candidate from Nizamabad D Arvind, however, expressed apprehensions over the safety of EVMs in the strong room. He made a representation to the Nizamabad returning officer requesting that he be allowed to use his own lock to the strong room along with the other locks.

Similar incident of shifting of EVMs from strong room was reported in at Machilipatnam in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh on Saturday night.

TDP candidate for Nuzvid Assembly seat M Venkateswara Rao lodged a complaint with the Election Commission, saying polling equipment have been shifted from strong room at Krishna University campus at Machilipatnam to another godown without any intimation to the political parties.

Returning Officer Swapnil P Dinakar, however, clarified later that the EVMs that were shifted were either not used in the elections or were defective. “As many as 114 VVPATs, 104 ballot units and 102 control units that were unused in the election or defective have been shifted from the Krishna University campus to the EVM godown,” he said.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Electoral Officer Gopala Krishna Dwivedi, however, expressed anger at the shifting of unused EVMs from the strong room. He summoned Dinakar and Krishna district sub-collector Misha Singh to his office on Monday and sought an explanation. Dwivedi questioned why the unused EVMs were kept in the strong room in the first place and had not been shifted much before the actual EVMs arrived from the polling stations.

First Published: Apr 16, 2019 19:05 IST