Several cases of faulty electronic voting machines (EVMs) were reported and allegations of their tampering flew on Saturday in Gujarat where voting took place in 89 seats for the first phase of Assembly elections.
Congress leader Arjun Modhwadia caused a flutter by claiming that EVMs in three polling booths in Porbandar were found to be connected to external devices via bluetooth, raising doubts about hacking. He alleged that EVMs in booth number 145, 146 and 147 were hacked, a claim rejected by the Election Commission.
The complainant’s phone was detecting — when its bluetooth was activated — another device identified as “ECO 105” at the polling booth, said an EC official.
“ECO 105 was feared to be the EVM at the polling booth, giving rise to the fear of possible tampering through bluetooth technology… an inquiry showed a polling agent was carrying a mobile phone of Intex company, bearing model number ECO 105,” said Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) B.B. Swain.
The BJP hit back at the Congress for alleging tampering of EVMs. Party spokesperson Sambit Patra said, “Congress is searching for an excuse even before the results are out, as it stares at a loss in the elections.”
Voters reported snags in EVMs in Sardar Patel Vidyalaya booth in Surat’s Varaccha. Complaints of malfunctioning EVMs also came in from 16 rural and urban constituencies of Surat.
An EC official said that there were reports of technical glitches in EVMs in Surat and some other centres but the polling process resumed after the machines were replaced at eight-night polling booths.
While the EC has ensured a 100 per cent Voter Verifiable Paper trail for EVMs at all 24,600 polling booths, there were complaints related to these machines as well. Gujarat is the second state after Goa to use VVPAT in elections.
VVPAT machines are used during election process to verify that the vote polled by a voter goes to the correct candidate. After a voter presses the button on the EVM against the chosen candidate, the VVPAT prints a slip bearing the name of the candidate and the election symbol and drops it automatically into a sealed box.
Demands for the use of VVPAT rose in the wake of allegations of EVM tampering, beginning with the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections earlier this year. In the recent Uttar Pradesh civic elections also, claims were made by the Opposition BSP and the SP that the EVMs were tampered with to benefit the BJP
Both the BSP and SP as well as the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamul Congress have demanded that ballot papers should be brought back to ensure free and fair polling.