The Election Commission has admitted that CCTV cameras installed at a Bhopal strongroom where electronic voting machines (EVMs) were stored after the Madhya Pradesh polls did not function for over an hour due to an unprecedented power cut on Friday, resulting in a blackout that provoked accusations of tampering from opposition parties.
The election body also said that it has taken action against an official who allegedly delayed the handover of EVMs in Sagar by nearly two days, when it should have been done soon after the completion of the polls on November 28.
"A report obtained from the Bhopal Collector states that CCTV cameras and an LED display installed outside the strongroom did not function from 8.19 am to 9.35 am on 30.11.2018 due to failure of electricity supply. Because of this, recording could not be done during the given time period. An additional LED screen, an inverter and a generator have been installed in order to ensure continuous electricity supply," a statement released by the poll body on Saturday read.
It went on to add that the cameras installed on the premises are now working, and two cordons of security personnel have been deployed to prevent any wrongdoing. "The security force is also maintaining a logbook, and the machines are perfectly safe," the Election Commission added. The statement also took note of the Congress party's objection to an unlocked door at the Old Jail strongroom, adding that it "has been closed after the complaint".
A Congress delegation had met the Election Commission earlier in the day to raise its concerns over the security of EVMs across Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
Addressing reporters after the meeting, Congress MP Vivek Tankha complained of an extended blackout at a strongroom in Bhopal, due to which CCTV cameras stopped functioning. He also claimed that 48 hours after the polls were done, a school bus bearing no number plate was used to transport reserve EVMs to the Sagar district collector's office. "The spare EVMs were to be deposited two hours after the polls, not two days. This happened in the Khurai seat, from where the state home minister is contesting the polls," Mr Tankha told reporters.
While the Election Commission insisted in its statement that the EVMs were not tampered with, it admitted to procedural lapses on the part of the official concerned. "The responsible Nayab Tehsildar Sri Rajesh Mehra has been suspended for the delayed submission of machines," it said, adding that the polled EVMs have been securely kept in a separate strongroom.
The delegation also complained about suspicious people armed with laptops and mobile phones sneaking around strongrooms in Chhattisgarh's Dhamtari assembly seats on the pretext of repairing CCTVs, besides the alleged deletion of voters in Uttar Pradesh.