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Opposition parties to raise EVM concerns at all-party meet

EVM Tampering

New Delhi, May 11 : Opposition parties will, in all likelihood, again tell the Election Commission about their “loss of faith” in EVMs and to ensure trustworthy mechanism for polling, when an all-party meeting on the issue is held here on Friday.

The meeting will also discuss electoral reforms.

The EC is likely to seek suggestions for its proposed “EVM challenge”, which will provide a chance to those doubting Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) to prove that these can be tampered with.

The meeting comes in the wake of doubts repeatedly raised by many opposition parties on EVM working once results of assembly polls in five states were declared on March 11. The Bharatiya Janata Party swept to power in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

Leaders of 13 parties met Election Commission officials in April to convey their “complete loss of faith” in the EVMs and to demand use of VVPAT (voter-verified paper audit trail) and paper ballots in future polls.

These opposition parties had also conveyed their concerns on the EVMs to President Pranab Mukherjee.

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati had raised apprehensions about tampering of EVMs the day Uttar Pradesh assembly election results were out.

The Aam Admi Party, which lost the assembly elections in Punjab, and later the municipal corporation elections in Delhi, also raised its voice on the issue.

AAP leader Saurabh Bharadwaj threw a fresh challenge before the poll panel on Thursday by saying his party can prove how the EVMs used in assembly polls were pre-programmed to favour a particular party.

The AAP on Tuesday sought to demonstrate in the Delhi assembly how an EVM can be tampered with, though the Election Commission debunked the claim by saying the machine used was a mere “prototype”.

The AAP also contended that it could show how EVM motherboards can be changed in 90 seconds.

AAP activists even protested outside the Election Commission headquarters here on Thursday against alleged EVM tampering.

The Congress, Trinamool Congress and several other parties have raised their concerns over EVMs.

The AAP and Congress had demanded polling through ballot papers for last month’s Delhi MCD polls but the the Delhi State Election Commission said EVMs were “completely safe”.

The Election Commission too has repeatedly asserted that the EVMs cannot be tampered with.

On May 4, the poll panel released a “Status Paper on Electronic Voting Machines” describing the security measures adopted to make them tamperproof.

Congress leader and MP Vivek Tankha, member of the Congress delegation at the all-party meeting, told IANS that the Election Commission has to take a call on making the election process trustworthy.

He said EVMs do not enjoy their trust any more.

“The Election Commission has to take a call. At the end of the day it (elections) is all about trust,” Tankha told IANS.

He said VVPAT, the paper trial mechanism that enables a voter to confirm if the vote he has been cast for a candidate actually goes to him, has not been universally installed.

Tankha, Chairman of the Legal and Human Rights Department of the Congress, said going back to the paper ballot could also be a solution.

Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Brinda Karat said the party supports use of paper trail system in each and every election.

“It is a fact that the EVMs can be hacked. However, the only way to secure these against manipulations is to have a paper trail system. So, every election from now on has to have VVPATs,” Karat told IANS.

Amid concerns raised by the opposition, the Union Cabinet last month cleared the Election Commission’s proposal to buy VVPAT machines for the EVMs to ensure transparency in the voting process.

The proposal involves getting 16,15,000 VVPAT units for EVMs at a cost of around Rs 3,173.47 crore for use in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

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