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EVM scandal: Are votes really manipulated?

Since last few days several videos of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and VVPAT (Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail Machines) being mishandled in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Punjab have surfaced on social networking sites. On Monday, Congress and RJD activists had caught a person driving a truck carrying EVMs and trying to enter a strong room in Bihar. They stopped the vehicle and didn’t allow the person to enter the strong room. RJD activists posted the photo of the truck carrying EVMs on twitter. Indian voters have performed their duty of exercising their franchise. However, if EVM mishandling incidents occur then voters will lose faith in democracy. How are such incidents occurring when security is deployed to guard strong rooms where EVMs are kept?

When Afternoon Voice spoke to BSP leader Suresh Sakhare he said, “Our candidate Ansari has said that two trucks carrying EVM machines have been seized. Despite Election Commission being very strict and CRPF personnel being deployed, where did the EVMs come from? This means some misappropriation is going on. It’s BJP’s ploy to manipulate the exit poll verdict in its favour. Anarchy is prevailing in the country and there is no democracy.”

A BSP worker said that they had seized two vehicles that lacked number plates carrying EVMs from the strong room in Uttar Pradesh. Later local residents and party workers halted the vehicles and carried out protest. After learning about media’s entry into the area the EVMs were once again sent to strong rooms.

Congress spokesperson Hemlata Patil said, “There have been several complaints against electronic voting machines in the country. Some machines are missing while some others are being found at Tahsildar’s residence. A thorough investigation must be carried out by the Election Commission. The election must be held in a free and fair manner. The Election Commission must remain vigilant to stop the misuse of EVMs and action must be taken against the accused.”

Several videos of EVMs being moved from one unauthorized store room to others have surfaced on Twitter. Some of the machines were stored at local shops others were stacked in boot of private vehicles. In another video, a group of men were seen unloading several EVMs and VVPAT machines and stacking them up inside a shop. The former President Pranab Mukherjee expressed his concern pertaining to the tampering of EVMs. In a statement issued by him on twitter, Mukherjee said, “Safety and security of EVMs which are in the custody of ECI is the responsibility of the Commission. There can be no room for speculations that challenge the very basis of our democracy. People’s mandate is sacrosanct and has to be above any iota of reasonable doubt.”

BJP spokesperson Avdhut Wagh said, “Those who are worried about EVM, they should immediately file a complaint with the nearest police station. They should also report to the Election Commission for taking the necessary action against the accused. It is the responsibility of the Election Commission and District Magistrate who are supposed to depute necessary arrangements like CRPF, police. We have been using EVMs for long. There is not a single incident being reported about EVMs being stolen. Indian people and democracy are very strong and they will give answers to such questions on May 23 when results will be declared.”

There are also reports of EVMs being replaced in Chanduali and Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh. Chandauli district Congress committee president Devendra Pratap Singh stated that around 150 EVMs were being transported and brought to the strong room. Singh followed the vehicle and found those EVMs which were used during voting. Subsequently, the District Magistrate intervened and he transported those EVMs to District Magistrate office.

Shiv Sena MLC Anil Parab Shiv Sena said, “An investigation must be carried out so that people will come to know about the truth.”

According to Election Commission guidelines for storage and transportation of EVMs (polled and unpolled), “all polled and reserve EVMs after the voting shall be under cover of armed police all the times. Reserve EVMs should also be returned at the same time when the polled EVMs are returned at the receipt centre.”

The guidelines also say that “It must be ensured that all reserved EVMs are deposited in the strong room meant for reserve EVMs at the same time when the polled EVMs are deposited in the strong room meant for polled EVMs.”

Earlier SP-BSP alliance candidate Aftab Aalam has alleged of EVM mishandling in Dumariyaganj. He said that EVMs were replaced from the strong room. He said, “When the strong room was sealed after polls then how did the administration was replacing them? SP and BSP candidates had protested against this incident on May 14.”

In another incident, a vehicle carrying EVM was spotted near a strong room in Fatehabad in Haryana. After watching the vehicle the Congress party workers organised protests. They had got suspicious about the truck and started following it. They tried to gather more information about the truck from security guards posted there. As tension increased police and District Election Officer intervened to calm down the situation. In another video, a man was seen alleging that EVMs were brought in at a poll station in Jhansi without informing the candidates. An Aam Aadmi Party worker shared a video and alleged that two EVMs and a VVPAT machine was found lying in a car in Punjab. She also levelled allegations against BJP. All these incidents are happening at a time when the opposition has been alleging about EVMs being tampered with. They are demanding that VVPAT slips must be tallied with EVM figures in an entire assembly constituency in case a discrepancy is found in any polling booth.

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