EC-Kejriwal spar continues over EVMs

New Delhi, The war of words between Arvind Kejriwal and the Election Commission over EVMs escalated today as the AAP leader alleged the machines used in UP polls would be deployed in Bhind bypolls, a charge dubbed as by “baseless” by the EC.

Addressing a press conference at his residence, the Delhi Chief Minister alleged “widespread tampering” of EVMs and also claimed VVPAT machines from Uttar Pradesh were being brought to conduct the Rajouri Garden assembly bypoll here.

“This goes against the norm that EVMs used in one election cannot be used in another for at least 45 days,” the CM said.

Kejriwal also claimed that in Madhya Pradesh’s Bhind bypolls, the EC is deploying the same EVMs that were used in Uttar Pradesh polls.

At Bhind, VVPAT-enabled EVMs were found printing the BJP’s poll symbol irrespective of the button pressed during a trial (training exercise for poll officials), which the opposition parties had latched on to.

The Commission said no EVMs used in UP elections were moved for the Madhya Pradesh bypolls and termed as “baseless” Kejriwal’s allegations.

Yesterday, the Commission said instead of blaming EVMs, the AAP should introspect on the reasons for its defeat in Punjab.

The Commission said the electronic voting machines (EVMs) are kept in a strong room after results are announced till the 45-day period of filing of election petition by any of the candidates is over.

However, in case of VVPAT machines, the printed paper slips have to be retrieved at the time of counting and sealed in a paper envelope and only these sealed paper slips have to be kept inside the strong room along with the EVMs.

The voters see Voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) slip for seven seconds, which would be an acknowledgment receipt for the party they voted for in the election.

VVPAT is a machine which dispenses a slip with the symbol of the party for which a person has voted. The slip drops in a box but the voter cannot take it home.

“The VVPAT machines are not required by the law to be retained in strong room for the purpose of election petition and are available for use in any other election,” it said in a statement.

The Commission, without naming Kejriwal, described him as leader of a political party who had made “certain baseless observations and allegations” at a press conference.

The AAP convener had alleged this afternoon that EVMs, as per law, cannot be taken out for 45 days from the date of declaration of results.

But still, the machines for the bypolls in MP were shifted from UP where the results were declared on March 11 and hence the 45-day period is still not over, he claimed.

“Aspersions have also been cast on the Election Commission of India that EVMs from Uttar Pradesh were moved to Bhind, Madhya Pradesh. The Commission would like to point out that these allegations are completely baseless and made without verifying the facts. No EVMs have been moved from Uttar Pradesh for the purpose of bypolls in Madhya Pradesh,” it said.

The EC release said required number of VVPAT machines were moved from different states for use in bypolls as per the existing policy of the ECI.

“This is because 53,500 VVPAT machines available with the Commission were deployed during the recently concluded polls in five states,” it said.

The EVMs and VVPATs kept in reserve also go through the stringent protocol of ‘first level checking’, randomisation and loading of symbols in the presence of representatives of candidates/political parties.

Hence, the VVPATs that were sent to Bhind had the previous symbols loaded from Uttar Pradesh.

“This is a standard protocol and there was nothing amiss …According to standard protocol, the old symbols are erased only during first level checking before the next poll.

However, it was not done when the demonstration was made on March 31 at Bhind…for which Commission has replaced the District Election Officer,” it said.

It also noted that the report of special officer deputed to inquire into allegations of multiple printing of paper slips of BJP at Ater (Bhind) would be made public.