The Congress party complained to the Election Commission (EC) on Saturday about an alleged “conspiracy” to distort election results in Madhya Pradesh, expressing concern over a perceived lack of sufficient security outside ‘strong rooms’ storing electronic voting machines (EVM). Senior Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia urged the EC to ensure the security of EVMs and take strict action against anyone found tampering with the machines .
“Non-functioning of LED screen outside the strong room at Bhopal, reserve EVMs of home minister’s constituency in Sagar district reaching 48 hours late and video of boxes being taken into strong room at Satna-Khargone indicated some big conspiracy,” Scindia tweeted. He was referring to a set of videos doing the rounds in Madhya Pradesh. HT couldn’t independently verify the authenticity of the videos.
The Madhya Pradesh electoral office and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) denied the charges.
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“Chief electoral office again reaffirms that all EVMs are tamperproof. All EVMs are safely secured and sealed in strong rooms. More importantly they are under joint surveillance of police force and political parties,” the state election commission tweeted.
State BJP vice-president Vijesh Lunawat said, “The Congress is in the habit of crying over EVMs whenever it faces defeat. The Congress leaders should have faith in democracy and constitutional bodies and before lodging any complaint, they must understand the system first.”
In two separate memoranda submitted to the poll panel in Delhi, a Congress delegation led by Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Manish Tewari demanded that necessary steps be taken for preventing any manipulation .
Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Aam Admi Party (AAP) workers protested after a video clip went viral on Friday purportedly showing a man taking a box inside a strong room in Satna district. But the district administration denied that the video showed the gate of the strong room. In Khargone district, too, a video clip purportedly showing the entry of unauthorised people into the strong room went viral, triggering protests. In Sagar district, Congress claimed some EVMs reached the collection centre about 48 hours after polling because they were first taken to a hotel owned by a BJP minister.
Senior leader Ahmed Patel said the EC should allow representatives of all political parties while transporting EVMs to counting centers from strong rooms and review conduct of officials in certain districts.
Chief electoral officer VL Kantharao said, “There is no confusion about security of strong rooms. All the 51 strong rooms were sealed on November 28 and will be opened only on December 11. The strong rooms are under strict vigilance of para-military forces. Unused VVPAT, EVMs and batteries have been stored separately in warehouses. The videos which went viral were related to the warehouses only.”
VVPAT is short for voter verifiable paper audit trail, which, according to the EC, brings transparency to the voting process and acts as a tool to counter allegations of rigging .