Barely two days before the Lok Sabha vote count, a political row erupted Tuesday over reports of alleged tampering of EVMs and a concerned former President Pranab Mukherjee also stepped in to say the onus is on the Election Commission to put all speculation around these voting machines to rest.
Already locked in a battle with the EC over the reliability of the Electronic Voting Machines(EVM), the opposition also got fresh ammunition to press for their demand of increasing the tallying the paper trail of votes (VVPATs) with EVM figures after protests broke out in some parts of Uttar Pradesh.
The protests erupted after videos of alleged movement and tampering of EVMs went viral on social media, a charge dismissed by the EC as “frivolous” and “unfounded”. The EC also said the voting machines used for the seven-phase polls that began on April 11 and ended on May 19 are “absolutely safe” in strongrooms.
Reacting to the protests, the Congress said the EC should take immediate and effective steps to address the complaints of movement of EVMs from strongrooms in various parts of the country.
Amid allegations and complaints that fresh EVMs were being switched with those used in elections ahead of counting of votes on Thursday, the Commission came out with a statement to “emphatically and unambiguously” clarify that all such reports and allegations are “absolutely false, and factually incorrect.”
It said the visuals available on TV and social media “do not pertain to any EVMs used during the polls”.
Wading into the controversy over the EVMs, Mukherjee, in a rare intervention after demitting office in 2017, said there can be no room for speculation that challenge the very basis of Indian democracy.
He expressed concern over the alleged tampering of voters’ verdict, saying the onus of ensuring institutional integrity lies with the Election Commission, which should put all speculation to rest.
“I am concerned at reports of alleged tampering of voters’ verdict. The safety and security of EVMs which are in the custody of ECI is the responsibility of the Commission,” Mukherjee, a former Congress stalwart, said in a statement posted on his Twitter handle.
— Pranab Mukherjee (@CitiznMukherjee) May 21, 2019
As political parties directed their leaders, candidates and workers to remain extra vigilant in all districts where EVMs have been stored, Mukherjee said people’s mandate is sacrosanct and has to be above any iota of reasonable doubt.
“The onus of ensuring institutional integrity in this case lies with the Election Commission of India. They must do so and put all speculation to rest,” he said. Mukherjee on Monday had lauded the EC for conducting the Lok Sabha polls “perfectly”.
The BJP on its part condemned the opposition parties for questioning the credibility of the EVMs and asked them to accept their defeat with grace if people vote Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government to power again.
Exit polls have projected that the BJP-led NDA will retain power at the Centre,