Questions over EVMs in UP after videos surface

A couple of days ahead of counting of votes in Indian parliamentary elections, a controversy broke out on Monday after videos surfaced of alleged tampering of EVMs in Uttar Pradesh, the most important poll battleground, a charge dismissed by the Election Commission as ‘frivolous’ and ‘unfounded’. Former President Pranab Mukherjee expressed concern at allegations of EVM tampering and said the ‘onus of ensuring institutional integrity’ lies with the Election Commission.

 ‘The safety and security of EVMs which are in the custody of the EC is the responsibility of the Commission,’ Mukherjee said in a statement. Eighty parliamentary seats are up for grab in Uttar Pradesh, the highest number in an Indian state. As the videos of alleged EVM tampering went viral on the social media, workers of various political parties in Uttar Pradesh held protests in Ghazipur, Chandauli and Domariyaganj alleging that the machines were being ‘moved around’ outside strongrooms.

A video clip of EVMs being off-loaded from a truck and put in a room inside the counting centre complex in Chandauli was doing the rounds on social media. BJP's state unit president Mahendra Nath Pandey is seeking re-election from the seat. Another video is from Ghazipur where Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance candidate Afzal Ansari is seen staging protest alleging that the administration was trying to change EVMs.

Chief Electoral Officer of Uttar Pradesh state Venkateshwarlu sought to allay fears of political parties. Referring to the Ghazipur incident, he said the candidate wanted more number of people to keep a watch on EVMs on the basis of his apprehensions and the DM there has satisfied him and those staging protest have returned.

Mumbai Congress unit president Milind Deora has written a letter to Maharashtra Chief Electoral Officer expressing fear of ‘tampering of EVMs’ stored in various centres in the city. He alleged some people as well as vehicles were found moving around these centres in a suspicious manner. All the six parliamentary constituencies in Mumbai went to polls on April 29.

Pranab Mukherjee said ‘I am concerned at reports of alleged tampering of voters’ verdict. The safety and security of EVMs which are in the custody of the ECI is the responsibility of the Commission. There can be no room for speculations that challenge the very basis of our democracy. 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 (ECI). They must do so and put all speculations to rest,’ the former President said a day after he, at a book launch function in Delhi on Monday night, lauded the EC for conducting the national elections perfectly.