AAP has alleged that it faced huge defeats in elections held this year because EVMs were tampered.
New Delhi: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has accused the Election Commission of "backing out" of the hackathon that it had promised to prove that its electronic voting machines or EVMs cannot be rigged. After a day-long meeting on Friday with 42 political parties, including Mr Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party, the Election Commission spelled out its plan to hold what it called a "challenge" that would offer parties the opportunity to prove their allegation that EVMs can be tampered with. The poll panel also said that all future elections would use the VVPAT or voter-verifiable paper audit trail-equipped machines.
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"Sad that EC has backed out of hackathon," tweeted Mr Kejriwal, seeming to miss the fine-print. The Election Commission has not acceded to AAP's demand that it be handed a vote machine to take home to hack. But Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi said parties will have the opportunity to "demonstrate that EVMs used in the recently-concluded Assembly elections were tampered or that EVMs can be tampered even under the laid down technical and administrative safeguards." He said a date for the event would be announced soon.
The Election Commission, which is firm that its EVMs cannot be rigged, has also insisted that not just the technology, but the physical security around the machines makes them tamper-proof.
At the meeting yesterday, called to reassure parties amid a massive political debate on the reliability of EVMs, the poll panel said all future elections would use the VVPAT or voter-verifiable paper audit trail-equipped machines, which offer 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 the purchase of VVPATs, agreed last month to spend Rs. 3,200 crore for them.
AAP and parties like Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party have alleged that they have faced huge defeats in elections held this year because EVMs were tampered. They have alleged that the BJP's big wins in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections and last month's Delhi civic polls were aided by rigged EVMs. The BJP calls them poor losers.
The Congress has joined the other opposition parties in protests, demanding that future elections, such as the assembly polls in Gujarat later this year, be held through the paper ballot system.
Most parties that attended Friday's meeting welcomed the Election Commission's assurance on the use of VVPATs, but AAP was unconvinced.
"The hackathon should happen and it's a good thing....It cannot be constantly said that EVMs can't be tampered," said Delhi's Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who attended the meeting.
AAP legislator Saurabh Bharadwaj had earlier this week "hacked" a gadget that he said was "similar to an EVM," in the Delhi Assembly to make the point that voting machines can be tampered in "under 90 seconds" by changing the motherboard.
Engineers from the companies that make EVMs told NDTV on Friday that changing the motherboard of any gadget means the machine has changed. It would then not be an EVM any more, they said.