Electronic voting machines (EVMs) can do much more than just record one's vote. Going by a tongue-in-cheek tweet by Congress president Rahul Gandhi, they can also hijack buses to go on road trips and slip away from booths to park themselves in seedy hotel rooms.
Mr Gandhi made these references while exhorting party members to keep an eye on voting machines after polling is completed in Telangana and Rajasthan today. "Congress party workers, be vigilant after the polls close. In MP, EVMs behaved strangely after polling: Some stole a bus and vanished for 2 days! Others slipped away & were found drinking in a hotel. In Modi's India, EVMs have mysterious powers. Stay alert!" his tweet read.
The Congress president was referring to several EVM-related controversies that erupted after Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh went to the polls recently. Congress parliamentarian Vivek Tankha complained to the Election Commission that several reserve EVMs were brought to the Sagar district collector's office in an unregistered school bus over two days after voting on November 28, indicating that they could have been taken elsewhere to be tampered. In another incident, CCTV cameras installed at an EVM strongroom in Bhopal stopped functioning for over an hour on November 30 due to an unprecedented power cut -- provoking accusations of tampering from opposition parties. A backdoor of another strongroom was found open, ensuring access to everybody.
The Election Commission admitted to lapses in all these instances and suspended the poll official responsible for the delayed submission of EVMs. Doubts have been raised over the third controversy, which rose from short video clips of voting machines allegedly being kept in a hotel belonging to a local BJP leader.
However, doubts over the reliability of EVMs refuse to die down. A Border Security Force sub-inspector was removed from election duty on Tuesday, a day after Congress workers found him using a laptop outside a Mandi strongroom. The authorities said they will take action against the officer on the basis of a probe.
Most opposition parties in the country demand that paper ballots be brought back in the next Lok Sabha elections owing to the alleged susceptibility of EVMs to technological manipulation. However, the Election Commission maintains that returning to the previous system makes "no sense", and voter-verifiable paper audit trail units should be more than enough to put all such doubts to rest.
The BJP, for its part, insists that opposition parties are blaming EVMs to hide their insecurities.