Amid media reports that Voter-verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machine was dispensing BJP slips during a demonstration exercise in Madhya Pradesh’s Bhind, the opposition parties alleged that tampered EVMs had possibly helped BJP during the last leg of assembly elections. Moments later, the Election Commission asked for a detailed report from the district poll authorities in Bhind. An Assembly bypoll is due in Bhind next week and the demonstration was part of the familiarisation exercise. In light of the development, the Election Commission has decided to send special observers for independent feedback and also sought report from the CEO.
The poll watchdog’s spokesperson said in a statement: “We have sought a detailed report from district election officer and would come up with a response in the evening.”
How VVPAT works
It’s a machine that dispenses a slip with party symbol for which a person has voted for. Then the slip drops into a box but the voter cannot take it home. As per media reports, the receipt showed the vote going to the Bharatiya Janata Party, irrespective of the button pressed, during the demonstration in Bhind.
Allegations against Chief Electoral Officer Saleena Singh
There were also reports that suggested that the Chief Electoral Officer Saleena Singh was seen threatening journalists with detention at the police station if the news appeared in newspapers. However, in a hurriedly summoned press conference in Bhopal earlier in the day, Singh rubbished the reports of VVPAT machine dispensing only BJP slips. She told reporters that her office and the district poll authorities had sent reports on the issue to the EC. In a statement, Singh had said, “During the demonstration, the VVPAT first dispensed a slip with (BJP’s) lotus symbol but the second one had (Congress’) hand symbol,” she said. VVPAT machines would be used in Assembly by-elections at Ater in Bhind district and Bandhavgarh in Umaria district on April 9.
She further explained that a voter can file a declaration if the VVPAT slip doesn’t reflect his or her choice correctly and that the election officer will have to follow a set procedure to verify the claim. The CEO said the voting will be stopped if the officer finds the claim to be correct. “If it is other way round (if the claim is incorrect) the voter will be booked and can face six months’ imprisonment or a fine of Rs 1,000 or both after trial (under the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961),” she added.
Veteran Congress leader Digvijaya Singh said he didn’t trust the Electronic Voting Machine from the beginning and added that the country shouldn’t be averse to ballot paper when elections across the world are being done through the same medium.
Meanwhile, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal today met Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi to discuss the EVM tampering issue. “We have been saying that the EVMs were tempered. Are the elections in this nation being conducted fairly? Are people casting their votes or machines itself deciding it?” Kejriwal told reporters after meeting the Election Commissioner.
With inputs from PTI, ANI