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Confronted with allegations of manipulation and tampering of electronic voting machines in elections, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has decided to soon throw an “open challenge” to test the infallibility of EVMs, sources in the poll panel told The Indian Express. “We will soon fix a date for this open challenge. In 2009, too, the ECI had thrown an open challenge for anyone to demonstrate how EVMs owned by the ECI can be tampered with. No one could prove it. Since such apprehensions have been raised once again, we have decided to repeat the exercise to put all doubts to rest,” said sources.
Representatives from political parties will be invited to participate in the challenge, along with people who know the technology, organisations and individuals who have raised doubts about the integrity of the commission’s EVMs, sources said. On Monday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had challenged the commission to make the EVMs available to the party for 72 hours and claimed that “we will read the code and rewrite it too”.
Kejriwal had earlier alleged that the EVMs could be manipulated, following the party’s underwhelming performance in the Punjab assembly polls. Before that, BSP chief Mayawati had blamed faulty EVMs for her party’s rout in the UP assembly elections, with the charge being endorsed by the SP and the Congress. These parties have demanded that EVMs should not be used for elections unless equipped with a Voter-Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) facility.
These allegations gained ground on Saturday following reports that a VVPAT machine used during a trial in Madhya Pradesh only dispensed slips with the BJP’s poll symbol. The Commission has repeatedly denied the allegations, and on Monday dismissed Kejriwal’s latest charge as “baseless”.
On March 16, the commission issued a communication stating that during the “open challenge” in 2009, “in spite of opportunities given by ECI, machines opened and internal components shown, no one could demonstrate any tampering with the machine in the ECI headquarters”.
At the time, the commission had invited those who had expressed reservations about EVMs, including political parties, petitioners before various courts and some individuals who had written to the panel, to validate their allegations during demonstrations.
In its communication last month, the commission stated that the outcome of the 2009 exercise was that “none of the persons, who was given the opportunity, could demonstrate any tamperability of ECI-EVMs”. “They either failed or chose not to demonstrate,” it said.