Election commission had brusquely rejected AAP's allegations of faulty EVMS.
New Delhi: A meeting of 55 political parties that could help firm the ground rules for the hackathon promised by the Election Commission to establish that voting machines were reliable has started in the capital. The meeting comes against the backdrop of a high-pitched campaign by the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party that convened a special session of the Delhi Assembly this week to make the point that the voting machine could be tampered. In all of 90 seconds, it claimed after a demonstration where its engineer-lawmaker Saurabh Bharadwaj "hacked" a lookalike gadget. It is a line that suits other opposition parties too including the Congress that had steadfastly rejected similar concerns raised after the 2009 Lok Sabha elections by BJP leaders, then in the opposition. The commission had brusquely rejected AAP's allegations levelled after it lost Punjab assembly elections and advised the party to introspect instead but after about a dozen opposition parties too expressed concerns, it decided to hold today's meeting.
Here are the 10 points on this story:
The Aam Aadmi Party has challenged the poll body to give it a chance to prove how voting machines used in the assembly polls were pre-programmed to favour a particular party.
"We will demonstrate and prove before the panel how EVMs can be tampered with the help of its ROM (read only memory)," Mr Bharadwaj said ahead of the meeting.
Sources suggest Mr Bharadwaj would have to wait for the hackathon for any demonstration that he may have in mind. There will be a demonstration ahead of Friday's meeting, but this will be done by the officials. Representatives of political parties who will be present can only ask questions.
The Election Commission's strategy to persuade the political parties about the election process is two-fold. One will be to attempt to reassure parties that the technology used by standalone gadgets made it virtually impossible and impractical to tamper with the machines, given that the machines are kept in a secure location.
The commission will also stress that such concerns would be automatically taken care of since the poll body had decided to use the VVPAT or voter-verifiable paper audit trail-equipped machines in all assembly and parliamentary elections that it conducts.
This add-on gadget offers instant evidence of the vote recorded by printing a paper receipt that is visible before it drops into a sealed box. The government, which had stalled the poll body's proposal for months for its purchase, agreed last month to spend Rs 3,200 crore for these machines.
But the EVM isn't all that the seven national and 48 state level political parties will talk about. The Election Commission is hoping to build support to disqualify candidates who have been charged by a court for bribing voters.
Ahead of Friday's meeting, Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Brinda Karat said it was true that the machines could be hacked. "However, the only way to secure these against manipulations is to have a paper trail system. So, every election from now on has to have VVPATs," she said.
Congress leader Vivek Tankha said the paper trail mechanism that lets a voter to confirm which candidate was voted for, has not been universally installed. "The Election Commission has to take a call. At the end of the day it (elections) is all about trust," he said.
Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati has said while tampered EVMs were to blame for the BJP's big win in Uttar Pradesh, there were other reasons too. One of them, she acknowledged, was the sacked party leader Naseemuddin Siddiqui who she had entrusted to interact with Muslims.