Dubai: Social media raised strong concern over reports of Indian electronic voting machines (EVMs) with the ballots not reaching strong rooms. Counting will be held on May 23.
Videos of Electronic Voting Machines not reaching strong rooms in time surfaced on social channels, with Indian media reports claiming complaints had been received from different parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab and Haryana.
Strong rooms are places where EVMs are stored. The rooms have several layers of security, to ensure votes are not manipulated.
Tweep @PoMoGandhi wrote: “Today, I have seen up to 20 videos of ‘EVMs being switched’, with new machines in trucks being taken to ‘strong rooms’. I congratulate @ECISVEEP Arora for presiding over this procedure.”
A video doing the rounds showed workers transporting a truck-load of EVMs being brought in to a strong room. The man recording the video can be heard saying that the workers were transporting EVMs till the last day. One of the workers said that the EVMs were coming from the Sakaldiha constituency in Uttar Pradesh, saying that it got late.
Another video showed a candidate of the UP coalition between Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party, which has been called the Mahagatbandhan or the Grand Alliance scrapping with police officers on vote rigging.
Journalist @saahilmenghani shared the video writing: “WOAH! WATCH MGB [Mahagathbandhan] candidate from Ghazipur confronting POLICE on EVM safety. He alleges that a truck full of EVMs was spotted. He is now sitting on dharna [sit-in protest] outside the counting centre. His demand is that instead of CISF [Central Industrial Security Force], BSF [Border Security Force] must protect EVMs.”
Election Commission responds
The Election Commission of India, the body in charge of ensuring the elections are conducted in a free and fair manner, responded to reports of rigging.
Addressing the allegations in Ghazipur, and the viral video of the BSP-SP candidate’s scuffle with police officers, the official Twitter account of the District Administration of Ghazipur, tweeted: “The apprehensions regarding EVMs are baseless. EVMs are in strong room with 24×7 CISF security. And candidates have been allowed to post their agents to monitor the strong room.”
The spokesperson for the Election Commission of India also provided a detailed report by the Returning Officer, tweeting: “Please note the following factual reports from concerned Returning Officers in context of varied clips being circulated on media platforms on EVM strong room issues. Clarification issued by ROߑ?with respect to mishandling of EVMs in Chandauli, UP. All extant guidelines issued by ECI followed.”
The second viral video was addressed by the District Election Officer of Jhansi, where he said that the video was of a reserve and unused VVPATs - voter-verified paper audit trail.
Former President Pranab Mukherjee took to Twitter to share his message on the EVM controversy. The brief statement concluded with the message: "The onus of ensuring institutional integrity in this case lies with the Election Commision of India (ECI). They must do so and put all speculations to rest."
Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi also addressed the reports of EVMs being mishandled. In an audio message shared on Twitter, she could be heard saying: “Don’t lose heart because of the rumours and exit poll results. They are being spread to discourage you. Your alertness is even more important now. Stay strong near the strong room and counting centres, stay alert. We have high hopes that our hard work will pay off.”
In a series of tweets, Indian journalist Ravi Nair spoke about how manipulation could swing election results.
Using his Twitter handle @t_d_h_nair, he wrote: “To rig an election in a multi-party democracy like India, you don’t have to hack all 1.6 million EVMs. No need to tamper [with] even 10% (160,000) as mentioned. Any party which can tamper 38,000 to 54,000 EVMs (2.5% to 3.5%) will sweep the election. It is not necessary for a party to tamper the EVMs in every constituency. They’ll do it only where they feel they have a chance, but competition is tough and that will eliminate the suspicion....”