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Indian opposition concerned at voting machines tampering reports

NEW DELHI: Leading opposition parties urged India’s election commission on Tuesday to count the paper trail attached to electronic voting machines (EVMs) before turning to the EVMs amid reports of rigging by changing the machines across the country. The Frontline magazine had reported recently that a Right to Information (RTI) activist had revealed that two million EVMs had gone unaccounted between their manufacturers and the election commission.

The move follows exit polls that give Prime Minister Narendra Modi a clear win for a second innings.

Former Indian president Pranab Mukherjee expressed concern over the alleged tampering of voters’ verdict, and said the onus of ensuring institutional integrity rested with the Election Commission of India (ECI), which, he said, should put all speculation to rest.

Parties want paper trail counted first

He also said that there could be no room for speculations that challenge the very basis of Indian democracy. “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,” he said in a statement posted on his Twitter handle. On Monday, Mr Mukherjee had expressed satisfaction at the conduct of the seven phase elections.

Protests broke out in some parts of Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday after videos of alleged movement and tampering of EVMs went viral on social media, a charge dismissed by the ECI as “frivolous” and “unfounded”.

The Congress said that the ECI should take immediate and effective steps to address the complaints of movement of EVMs from strongrooms from various parts of the country.

Leaders of 22 opposition parties met the ECI and demanded verification of the paper slips of randomly-selected polling stations before the counting of the votes begins on May 23.

They also demanded that if any discrepancy is found during the scrutiny of voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT), 100 per cent counting of the paper slips of VVPATs of all polling stations of that particular assembly segment should be done and compared with the EVM results.

“We told the ECI that the VVPAT machines should be counted first and if there is any discrepancy, then all of them in that segment should be counted,” Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad told reporters after meeting election commission officials.

“We are asking the ECI to respect the mandate of people. It cannot be manipulated,” Telugu Desam Party’s N. Chandrababu Naidu told reporters.

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Satish Chandra Mishra alleged that “there is large-scale bungling relating to EVMs in Uttar Pradesh. We demand deployment of central forces”.

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2019

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