EVM manipulation row: Opposition cries foul but bureaucrats defend system, say hacking is not possible

Social media is abuzz with posts about not just the hacking of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) but also the alleged changing or replacing of these machines.

Right after the exit poll predictions came out, leaders of 22 Opposition parties submitted a memorandum before the Election Commission (EC), requesting that the verification of VVPAT slips of randomly identified polling stations be done prior to the initiation of counting of votes and not after the completion of last round of counting.

Pictures of EVMs being transported in trucks were being shared online and speculations over malpractice by the EC erupted as the narrative against a possible BJP sweep (as predicted by the exit polls) took shape.

Aam Aadmi Party MLA from Greater Kailash Saurabh Bhardwaj on Wednesday tweeted:

It comes a day after the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) leader from Bihar, Upendra Khushwaha, on Tuesday warned of violent reprisals from the public if the ruling BJP and its allies try to manipulate EVMs in their favour.

Kushwaha, a former Union minister in the Narendra Modi government and now a part of the Opposition alliance in Bihar, also dismissed the exit poll predictions released on 19 May, calling them an attempt to demoralise the Opposition parties so that the "rigged results" could be justified later.

Ram Chandra Yadav, a former MLA from Bihar, on Wednesday brandished guns at a press conference to show his support to Kushwaha’s violent threat.

A rumour also spread that EVMs had been changed in Amethi parliamentary constituency. Afzal Ansari, a candidate of SP-BSP alliance from Ghazipur constituency in Uttar Pradesh, created ruckus along with his supporters and sat on a dharna outside the strong room, where EVMs have been stored, alleging that there had been attempts to change original EVMs with duplicate ones.

RJD in Bihar has levelled charges of EVM hacking, alleging that trucks with EVMs were found lying outside the strong rooms in Saran and Maharajganj. The party even called the EC a "BJP worker".

 EVM manipulation row: Opposition cries foul but bureaucrats defend system, say hacking is not possible

Polling officials seal an EVM after voting. Reuters

However, after the completion of polling, the EVMs and VVPATs are sealed, stored and locked safely in a strong room in the presence of candidates and observers of the EC.

These rooms are absolutely safe and the entire process of sealing and storage is videotaped by the officials. On the day of counting, the strong rooms are unlocked in presence of the representatives of political parties by showing them the seals, address tags and serial numbers of EVMs to maintain transparency and authenticity of the machines used in the polling process.

An important aspect to be noted here is that these rumours and allegations started making rounds during the last phase of the seven-phased polling, especially when the BJP claimed that it would win with a majority.

It turned into hyperbole after the exit poll predictions and the projections about the BJP gaining huge margin were linked with EVM hacking. But EVMs have nothing to do with exit polls, as the latter were not conducted through EVMs. They are just surveys of voters who have cast their votes.

According to the EC, a 24-hour EVM control room has been made functional at Nirvachan Sadan in New Delhi to monitor complaints relating to EVMs.

Bureaucrats have also taken to Twitter and defended the system they are a part of. D Roopa, Inspector-General of Police, Railways, has tweeted that IAS officers and state administrative services officers all over the country know that EVMs can't be hacked.

Dr Dinesh Arora, deputy CEO, Ayushman Bharat PM-JAY (National Health Protection), has tweeted that he was a Returning Officer thrice and can thus vouch for the effeciency of EVMs.

N Saravana Kumar, Joint Secretary in the HRD Ministry, has posted a link to a personal blog post he wrote two years ago, in which he has vouched for the integrity of the EVMs as a practitioner. In the blog post, he had stated that the attack on the administrative process felt more like a personal attack to him.

It should be noted that the entire administrative setup remains involved in this process of conducting elections.

When it comes to the handling of EVMs, First Level Checking (FLC), preparation of EVMs before polls, mock polls are mandatorily conducted in the presence of the representatives of candidates or political parties.

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Updated Date: May 22, 2019 21:55:48 IST