To Tackle EVM "Apprehensions" In Gujarat, Congress Has An Unusual Request

Gujarat's Chief Electoral Officer BB Swain told NDTV that the Congress party has requested cellphone jammers outside guarded rooms where the EVMs would be kept after polling.


Gujarat Assembly Election 2017: Election officers prepare EVMs for first phase elections in Rajkot (PTI)

Ahmedabad:  The Congress is making no bones about its concerns of election rigging in Gujarat. The party has not only gone to great lengths to tackle any possible attempt to tamper electronic voting machines or EVMs but also made a special request to the Election Commission. According to the poll body, the Congress has requested cellphone jammers outside guarded rooms where EVMs would be kept after polling.

"They did ask for jammers outside strong rooms but it is not a policy as of now," Chief Electoral Officer of Gujarat BB Swain told NDTV.

The Election Commission maintains that EVMs being used in Gujarat are tamper-proof and adequate security measures have been taken.

For the first time, VVPAT (voter-verifiable paper audit trail) machines which present a receipt upon voting will be used along with EVMs in all polling booths of the 182 constituencies in Gujarat.

"The kind of administrative security and checks and balances are very strong so that there should be no apprehension," said Mr Swain.

According to him, the security system also involves a two-stage randomisation process. Machines are randomly selected before reaching a polling station to ensure that the machines are not pre-programmed to favour a particular candidate.

But the Congress seems unconvinced. Over the last few days, the party has officially registered complaints with the Election Commission in Gandhinagar that they fear the ruling BJP might rig elections.

"These are the machines which were used in UP also and there have been numerous instances in mayor elections to prove our apprehensions," senior Congress leader Anand Sharma told NDTV.
election officials evms gujarat election pti

Poll officials carry EVM machines to polling booths on the eve of the first phase of Gujarat elections (PTI)

The party has brought in software engineers and non-governmental organisations to train representatives of each candidate on how to spot attempts to tinker with EVMs in their area.

Training sessions were organised in Ahmedabad, Saurashtra, Kutch, Mehsana and Banaskantha. The party is also conducting mock polls in every district. "Each training session was attended by at least 25 to 30 representatives," a senior Congress leader told NDTV.

After each session, a detailed written summary in Hindi and Gujarati has been WhatsApp-ed to all the booth agents. Instructions have also been given on how to raise an objection legally so that if the need arises, the party can approach the high court.

The Election Commission rules permit all parties to check EVMs before elections as a procedure. The Congress says that it wants VVPAT slips to be manually counted after voting.

"After UP elections, apprehensions have been there. We want 25 percent of VVPAT to be counted at every centre and booth," said Anand Sharma.

Doubts over the inviolability of EVMs resurfaced after state elections in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand earlier this year. Opposition parties which lost big in those polls alleged voter fraud and latched on to multiple news reports of malfunctioning EVMs since then.

The BJP, however, said the Congress is afraid that it will lose elections and that's why it is making such a huge deal over nothing. "It seems they have already accepted defeat," party spokesperson Jagdish Bhavsar said.

Gujarat votes in two phases on Saturday and Thursday next. Results will be declared on December 18.

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