Just days ahead of the counting in the Lok Sabha elections, the Election Commission of India (EC) was forced to come out with a strong denial against claims that EVMs in several states have already been compromised. The EC statement sought to calm nerves as several videos from various places in the country started doing the rounds on social media of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) being allegedly mishandled. Several exit polls have predicted a return of the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) at the centre.
The security of the EVMs came more in focus after former President Pranab Mukherjee issued a statement expressing concern "at reports of alleged tampering of voters' verdict". Mukherjee's statement came just a day after he had praised the Election Commission as an institution while also saying that "only a poor workman blames his tools". (Read more here)
Videos Circulating On Social Media
1) Chaundauli, Uttar Pradesh
In this video from Chandauli, Uttar Pradesh, one can hear the person shooting the video inquire about the EVMs being unloaded from a truck by a group of men.
Additional chief electoral officer BDR Tiwari speaking to Hindustan Times said that the reserved/unused EVMs from Sakaldiha assembly segment in Chandauli had arrived late.
“When the vehicle transporting the EVMs unloaded the EVMs, the leaders and workers of some political parties objected and they were told the EVMs were unused and taken to the strongroom and shown the seal on the door,"
Tiwari told Hindustan Times.
2) Ghazipur, Uttar Pradesh
In this video one can spot the Samajwadi Party (SP) - Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate Afzal Ansari from Gazipur, Uttar Pradesh sitting in protest outside a strongroom where the electronic voting machines were kept. Ansari alleged that the EVMs were being transported out of the strongroom in a vehicle.
The returning officer of Ghazipur issued a statement regarding the incident.
3) Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh
In this video from Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh, a man can be seen alleging that EVMs were brought into the polling station without informing the candidate.
Shiv Sahay Awasthi, District Election Officer Jhansi speaking to the media said that "Some polling parties arrived late, however all EVMs were put in place in the strongroom by 7 am. The strongroom has been sealed in presence of general observers and candidates under CCTV surveillance."
The Election Commission refuting the allegations has stated that the polled EVMs are absolutely safe in the strongrooms.
"Certain complaints of alleged movement of EVMs, purportedly to replace the polled EVMs in the strongrooms, have been doing the rounds in sections of media. Election Commission of India would like to emphatically and unambiguously clarify that all such reports and allegations are absolutely false, and factually incorrect. The visuals seen viral on media do not pertain to any EVMs used during the polls."
The EC in its press release said that the aspersions in clips being used in media merely pertain to the storage or movement of Reserve unused EVMs..
Read the full statement here.
After counting of votes is done, EVMs and VVPATs are sealed and mandated to be stored in strongrooms.
"RO/ARO shall store the EVMs, allocated for his constituency, in a strong room in the presence of representatives of National/State Level Political Parties, under videography. EVMs meant for training and awareness of voters shall be kept in a separate strong room so that strong room having EVMs (including reserve EVMs) meant for poll need not be opened before preparation of EVMs." states the EC manual on EVM and VVPAT. (Read here)
But the EC has come under criticism from several people on the issue of security that accompanies the unused EVMs.
A source within the Election Commission on condition of anonymity said that there exists a three-layer security arrangement at EVM strongrooms across the country for the general elections.
EC along with Central Para-military Forces (CPMF) guard the inner circle of the strongrooms where the EVMs are kept, and the outer parameter is secured by the state armed constabulary and local police or the District Executive Force deployed on the streets.
"The District Collectorate (DC) and Superintendent of Police (SP) are personally responsible for the security of strongroom within the district and meticulous implementation of the protocol," added the source.