Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora asserted today that Electronic Voting Machines cannot be tampered with, as he described EVMs as being "tossed like a football" in political discourse.
He also said the Election Commission is striving to ensure that incidents of EVM malfunctions reported during polls are reduced to a minimum.
"We are not satisfied. We are moving forward to ensure that there are not even a few incidents (of malfunction)," he told news agency PTI in an interview.
A former bureaucrat, Mr Arora was appointed as an election commissioner on August 31, 2017. He succeeded Om Prakash Rawat as Chief Election Commissioner On December 1 this year after he retired.
Mr Arora said tampering and malfunctioning are two separate things. "Tampering shows mala fide (intention). Malfunction can happen," he said.
There were 1.76 lakh polling booths in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Telangana, where assembly elections were held recently, Mr Arora said.
There were very few incidents of EVM malfunctioning (less than one per cent) of the total machines deployed, he said.
A total of 1.76 lakh EVMs were deployed -- one machine per booth -- during the elections.
He said the poll panel is continuously working to ensure that there are not even a few incidents of malfunction. "EVM is only a machine which records votes. Can it be programmed? No. A polite but emphatic no," he asserted.
He said while the 2014 Lok Sabha elections had one result, the assembly elections in Delhi held soon after had an entirely different result.
Recent assembly polls in the five states had different results and even the bypolls held earlier had different results, he pointed out.
"If the result is 'X', it is okay. But if it is 'Y' then the EVM is faulty," he said, responding to allegations by political parties on the reliability of EVMs.
Responding to a query, Mr Arora said while political parties were free to target the Election Commission and question its impartiality as it was their "right" as an important stakeholder, he said he was "hurt" that the EVM was being "tossed like a football".
Political parties are an important stakeholder after voters, he said.
The Chief Election Commissioner said it is the stand of the Election Commission that the country will not go back to the ballot paper. "I am reiterating the stand today," he said.
The Election Commission will hold the 2019 general election under Mr Arora.
Besides the Lok Sabha polls, Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, Odisha, Maharashtra, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim are scheduled to be held next year.
Mr Arora also said that everyone in the Commission will continue to put their best foot forward to meet the expectation of all the stakeholders strictly in consonance and in conformity with the vision and ideals of the Constitution.
"We are also aware that Elections to Lok Sabha are in the offing. The internal preparations for this actually started sometimes back. We will try to meticulously prepare on all fronts..."
"All my colleagues in the EC, we will elicit and want to solicit cooperation of all the stakeholders including political parties, members of the civil society, NGOs, media and all those who have a stake in the crucial events like elections to Lok Sabha of India," he said.
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