EVM Controversy Live: Opposition Leaders Demand Verification Of VVPAT Slips Before Counting Of Votes
Polling officers during training to learn use EVMs, VVPATs ahead of the elections. Picture is for representational purposes. (Photo: PTI)

EVM Controversy Live: Opposition Leaders Demand Verification Of VVPAT Slips Before Counting Of Votes

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Election Commission Moves To Deal With EVM Complaints

The Election Commission has set up a 24-hour control room here to monitor complaints relating to EVMs.

“The complaints related to storage issues at strongrooms, security of strongrooms, permissions to candidates to post their agents at strongrooms, CCTV monitoring, movement of any EVMs, and any complaints during counting related to EVMs can be informed at control room, number is 011-23052123 (with 5 hunting lines),” it said in a statement.

Modi Terms EVM Issue A 'Needless Controversy'

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed concern over the “needless controversy” created by the Opposition over EVMs at a meeting of NDA leaders, even as the ruling alliance laid out its agenda for the next five years if it is elected to power again.

Activists Demand Reversal Of Election Commissions Order On VVPAT

A group of activists have demanded the reversal of an Election Commission order about tallying the VVPAT slips after the counting of the EVMs.

In a letter to Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, the civil society members stated that the counting of the electronic voting machines should commence only when the tallying of the verifiable paper audit trail slips for the five sampled booths in each constituency are completed.

The activists, including Aruna Roy, also demanded that if there is a mismatch in a seat, all VVPAT slips in that constituency must be counted before declaring the result. The 24 groups, who have come under the banner of the People’s Agenda, wrote the letter to Arora and the two election commissioners.

The People's Agenda reminded the commission about the detailed memorandum shared in their meeting with the deputy election commissioner on May 7, outlining the key issues of concern that included a demand for 100 percent counting of VVPAT slips.

They emphasised that the commission seemed to be unwilling to meaningfully engage with non-party groups who are working on the ground to ensure the credibility and transparency of the electoral process. No appointment had been given to meet the election commissioners despite a series of mails and phone calls, they alleged.

The activists expressed also angst at the Election Commission’s perceived unwillingness to respond to several letters positively and promptly, even on issues that have grave implications.

The activists also shared with the commissioner a public statement issued by 48 eminent citizens, including senior advocates Fali S Nariman and Soli Sorabjee, Justice A P Shah, admiral (retired) L Ramdas and historian Ramachandra Guha, demanding 100 percent counting of VVPAT slips.

EVMs 'Absolutely Safe', Says Election Commission

The Election Commission asserted that EVMs used in the Lok Sabha polls are “absolutely safe” in strongrooms, dismissing allegations that the voting machines used in the elections were being switched with fresh ones ahead of counting of votes on May 23.

Referring to the allegations and complaints, the commission said it would like to “emphatically and unambiguously” clarify that all such reports and allegations are “absolutely false and factually incorrect”. The visuals on TV and social media “do not pertain to any EVMs used during the polls”, it said.

In a statement, the poll watchdog said, after the close of polls, all polled EVMs and VVPATs are brought under security cover to designated strongrooms, which are sealed with double locks in the presence of candidates and observers of the commission.

The entire process of storage and sealing of the strongroom is videoed. “Continuous CCTV camera coverage is done till completion of counting. Each strongroom is guarded with round-the-clock security by Central Armed Police Forces. Further, candidates or their designated agents remain present at the strongroom for 24X7 vigil at all times.”

On counting day, the strongrooms are opened in the presence of candidates or their agents and observers. This is also videoed.

Before counting starts, the counting agents are shown the address tags, seals and serial number of EVMs to satisfy themselves to the genuineness and authenticity of the machines used in the polls, it said.

The provisions and protocols have been explained to political parties on multiple occasions, including in several of the 93 meetings held with them at the commission, since the announcement of elections, the commission pointed out.

It can be appreciated, the detailed administrative protocols, security framework and procedural guidelines mandated by the commission completely foreclose and pre-empt the possibility of any mischief or manipulation in the polled EVMs and VVPATs stored in the designated strongrooms. The aspersions in clips being used in media merely pertain to the storage or movement of reserve unused EVMs.
Election Commission 

BJP Slams Opposition For Questioning EVMs

The BJP condemned opposition parties for questioning the credibility of EVMs and asked them to accept their defeat with grace if the people vote Prime Minister Narendra Modi to power again.

Party leader and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad took a swipe at the opposition and said, “EVM is good when Mamata Banerjee became West Bengal chief minister twice and Amarinder Singh became Punjab chief minister. If they win, EVM is good. But when there is expectation that we will win because people of this country want Narendra Modi to be prime minister again, then EVM is unreliable.”

The BJP condemns their (opposition) conduct and will tell humbly to accept their defeat with grace
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad

BJP spokesperson G V L Narasimha Rao said opposition parties are desperately seeking an alibi for their impending massive defeat and their sudden mistrust is “unsurprising and unimaginary”.

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