New Delhi: Ahead of the counting of votes on Thursday, opposition parties in India have asked their workers to keep a strict vigil at sites where Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) are being stored, amid fears the equipment could be tampered with.
India’s Election Commission (EC) has repeatedly dismissed all reports of EVM manipulation.
The poll panel has said all EVMs, along with the Voter-verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines, have been sealed properly and stored in guarded strongrooms.
Nearly four million EVMs were used in the seven-phased general elections this year as the country voted to choose the 17th Lok Sabha.
Videos of EVMs purportedly not reaching the strong rooms in time and allegations that machines were being changed in various parts of the country have created panic among the opposition parties.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday urged the party workers to keep faith in the party and asked them to remain vigilant.
“Dear Congress workers, next 24 hours are important. Remain alert and vigilant. You are fighting for truth. Don’t get disheartened by the false exit polls. Have faith on yourself and the party, your efforts would not go in vain,” he tweeted.
The Samajwadi Party (SP), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) in Uttar Pradesh and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and its allies in Bihar have also told their workers to keep a strict watch on the strong rooms across these states.
The development comes after video footage went viral on social media, purportedly showing EVMs being transported in open trucks.
One video, allegedly taken in the Chandauli Lok Sabha constituency in Uttar Pradesh, showed EVMs being offloaded and purportedly placed inside a room. The clip shows some people, apparently supporters of the Samajwadi Party, questioning the actions.
Similar complaints were registered in Ghazipur, Jhansi and Domariaganj in Uttar Pradesh and Saran and Maharajganj in Bihar. Even reports of clashes among political workers in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar surfaced.
Complaints related to storage issues at strong rooms, security of strong rooms, permissions to candidates to post their agents at the strong rooms, CCTV monitoring and movement of EVMs were made until Wednesday. As the controversy erupted, the Election Commission set up a 24-hour EVM control room to deal with complaints related to EVMs round the clock.
The controversy took an ugly turn when Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) chief Upendra Kushwaha, who dumped the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) last year and joined the RJD-Congress Grand Alliance, said that if an attempt was made to “loot” votes, people should pick up arms for protection of votes. “We will do anything for the protection of votes and would not allow any attempt to tamper with the EVMs,” he said.
Responding to such threats and the possibility of violence after the announcement of election results, Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said on Tuesday night that “there will be a tit-for-tat”.
Paswan said the opposition parties were seeking excuses in the face of their imminent defeat and raising doubts over EVMs. “When they see their defeat is imminent, they raise doubts over EVMs, but when they won in three states, they didn’t say anything about EVMs,” Paswan said, adding, “Why did they not raise doubts after they won in Punjab?”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also expressed concern on Tuesday over the opposition making “needless controversy” over EVMs.