- Chandrababu Naidu met Chief Election Commissioner in Delhi
- Poll body asked why a man accused of EVM theft was part of delegation
- TDP hit back, saying poll body is trying to "avoid addressing" situation
The war of words between N Chandrababu Naidu's party and the Election Commission continued after the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister took protest over faulty voting machines to Delhi yesterday. After the election body pointed out that a man who faces a case of theft of voting machines was in Mr Naidu's delegation to meet the poll chief, the party hit back at the poll body and said it is trying to "avoid addressing the situation." The rebuttal came ahead of today's meeting of opposition leaders to discuss the issue of voting machines.
The Election Commission, in its letter, asked Mr Naidu's Telugu Desam Party why a man who faces a criminal case of theft in 2010 was part of his team to the poll body's office. The letter stated that it was decided that the man, Hari Prasad Vemuru, would get a detailed briefing from the technical team of the commission.
"When the discussions came to the issue of EVMs and their functioning, one of the delegates repeatedly raised various technical issues regarding functioning of EVM and said that he has the requisite technical expertise in the field... However, when this technical person came it turned out that he was Hari Prasad who was involved in a criminal case regarding alleged theft of EVM machine in 2010 in which FIR was filed in... Mumbai," the Election Commission said in its letter.
The TDP, in its reply, said no chargesheet was filed against Hari Prasad Vemuru in the last nine years and claimed that he is the first Indian to be honoured with the US-based Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award nine years ago.
The party hit back at the Election Commission and said, "...instead of focusing on the issue, commission is trying to avoid addressing the situation." The TDP said, the commission should, instead, "comprehend, clarify and resolve the issues raised by Mr Hari Prasad Vemuru on our behalf".
The party said he has co-published a research paper on vulnerability of Indian voting machines. Further backing him, the TDP claimed former Election Commission chiefs SY Qureshi and VS Sampath had welcomed his ideas, which lead to the design of VVPATs or voter paper trail slips.
Mr Naidu alleges that 30 to 40 per cent of voting machines in his state did not work properly on Thursday, the first day of the national election. He has demanded a re-poll in nearly 150 polling and has accused the election body of working on the instructions of the government.
Allegations of deleted or missing names on voters' lists were reported from various parts of the country on Thursday. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had alleged that votes had been deleted on an "unprecedented scale".
This afternoon, opposition leaders, including Mr Naidu, Arvind Kejriwal, Congress's Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Nadimul Haque of the Trinamool, representatives from the Left and the Samajwadi Party met in the capital to discuss the the issue of voting machines and transparency in the polling process.
Voting took place for all the 25 parliamentary seats in Andhra Pradesh and for its 175 assembly seats on April 11. The results will be declared on May 23.