New Delhi: As many as 13 political parties questioned the reliability of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) used in India during elections, but when the Election Commission threw open a challenge to prove that the machines can be tampered with, only two parties accepted the dare but they too opted out of the event held on Saturday.
In a post-event press conference, Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi maintained that the EVMs used by the EC are "non-tamperable" and with 100 per cent use of paper trail machines in all future elections the issue of tamperability of the machines "stands closed".
With these remarks Zaidi made it clear that there would be no such challenge in future to test the reliability of the electronic voting machines (EVMs) used by the poll-conducting body. Zaidi said although the Nationalist Congress Party(NCP) and the CPI(M) reported at the challenge venue they backed out. The CPI-M said it would not like to participate in the challenge, while the NCP too decided to opt out after raising some questions regarding EC's "failure" to provide it with some details it had sought.
The NCP, however, has been extended another chance to return at a later date to hack the machines as an "academic exercise", the CEC said. The CPI(M) said it did not wish to participate in the challenge but only wanted to understand the EVM process. "A detailed demonstration of the entire process was given to them by our technical team...The CPI(M) team expressed complete satisfaction and suggested that to allay any such doubts the Commission should hold such demonstrations and awareness sessions with technical community proactively," Zaidi said reading out a statement.
The NCP team, led by party MP Vandana Chavan, said it did not want to participate in any challenge but was only interested in an academic exercise. She referred to her earlier request in which the party had sought to know the memory number and battery number of the EVM four days in advance.
The EC said since the machines were sealed, they cannot be opened in the absence of party representatives, adding that the numbers could be accessed after opening the seals of the carry boxes at the time of the challenge. An NCP representative submitted a letter saying they cannot participate in the challenge because of non-provision of the information.
In the letter the representative also flagged objection on "last minute" change in the EVM selection protocol by asking them to select an EVM out of the list of 14 EVMs brought for the challenge. The NCP said the source of all their doubts had been the alleged problems with EVMs during Municipal Elections in Maharashtra.
The Commission clarified that EVMs used by SEC, Maharashtra for urban local bodies elections did not belong to it. Earlier, the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party were denied a chance to change the motherboards and circuits of the EC's EVMs. The EC had said if it was allowed, then the machines would not be the ECI-EVM but at best a "look alike".
The Commission also did not allow parties like the BJP and the CPI to observe the challenge, saying the framework does not allow anyone to witness the event as an observer. The Bahujan Samaj Party and the AAP had alleged that the machines used in the recent assembly elections were tampered with and favoured the BJP.
Over a dozen opposition parties, including the Congress, the BSP, the Samajwadi Party, the Left, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Janata Dal (United) had urged the EC in April to revert to the paper ballot system in future elections, saying tampering allegations have created "trust deficit" on the reliability of the voting machines.