Amid reports and videos of EVM tampering from across the country, former President Pranab Mukherjee released a statement on Tuesday, expressing concern over reports of EVM tampering just two days before the results of the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
“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. 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,” his statement read.
Stressing his belief in the institutions of the country, Pranab urged the Election Commission to ensure the integrity of the institutions and put the speculations to rest.
Read his full statement here:
Leaders of around 20 opposition parties met in Delhi on Tuesday to address concerns over the EVMs and use of VVPATs. Among those who attended the meeting were Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, Telugu Desam Party chief Chandrababu Naidu, Nationalist Congress Party's Praful Patel, DMK's Kanimozhi, Trinamool Congress' Derek O'Brien, Samajwadi Party's Ram Gopal Yadav, Bahujan Samaj Party's Satish Chandra Misra, Rashtriya Janata Dal's Manoj Jha, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury, CPI leader D Raja and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal.
Later, the parties submitted a memorandum to the EC, stating that VVPAT slips of randomly identified polling stations should be verified prior to counting the votes than after it. "Counting of the entire constituency should be done again in case there is a mismatch in VVPAT tally," the opposition parties have demanded.
The controversy around EVMs came to the fore after allegations that the machines were being changed in the EC strong rooms in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The allegations surfaced after videos purportedly showing EVMs being transported in open trucks went viral. However, the EC asserted that the charges were "baseless" and "frivolous".
There were claims that these trucks were going to the EC strongrooms in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. One video, allegedly from Chandauli Lok Sabha constituency in Uttar Pradesh, showed EVMs being off-loaded and purportedly placed inside a room. The clip shows some people, apparently supporters of Samajwadi Party, questioning it.
Election Commission denies allegations of manipulation
Dismissing the allegations of manipulation as "baseless" and "frivolous", the Election Commission of India (ECI), in a statement, said the voting machines are stored in proper security and protocol in the presence of candidates of the political parties.
About charges regarding Chandauli, the ECI denied that the EVMs were being changed and said the allegations by some people were "frivolous". It said the "EVMs were in proper security and protocol".
The poll body said additional unused EVMs from Sakaldiha assembly segment of Chandauli was brought to Naveen Mandi Sthal and they were meant to be stored in a different room at the place.
"Thirty-five additional unused EVMs were kept at the Sakaldiha tehsil. These couldn't be transported on Sunday and were brought from Sakaldiha on Monday to be stored in a different place," district election officer Navneet Singh Chahal said.
"In fact in all the cases, polled EVMs and VVPATs were sealed properly in front of the political parties candidates in videography. CCTV cameras are installed. CPAF (Central Armed Police Force) security is there. Candidates are allowed to have watch on strong room at a time and at a point one representative of each candidate 24x7," said the statement.
"The allegations are baseless," the ECI added.
(with IANS inputs)