CEO allays apprehensions as EVM security row rages on

A day after protests broke out in some parts of Uttar Pradesh over the alleged movement and tampering of electronic voting machines (EVMs), the Election Commission stepped in to allay the apprehensions of opposition parties.

On Monday night, protests had erupted in parts of Ghazipur, Chandauli, Dumariyaganj and Kannauj after some videos purportedly showing the movement and tampering of EVMs went viral on social media.

A video clip of EVMs being off-loaded and put in a room inside the counting centre in Chandauli went viral. In another video, alliance candidate from Ghazipur Afzal Ansari is seen having a heated exchange with a police officer alleging that the administration was trying to change the EVMs.

In Mirzapur, Congress candidate Lalitesh Pati Tripathi alleged that at the instance of BJP leaders, the district administration had kept around 300 additional EVMs in a room adjacent to the strongroom at government polytechnic.

Chief electoral officer (CEO), UP, L Venkateshwar Lu said the EVMs used in polling “are safe in sealed strong rooms under security” with CCTV cameras installed around the strong rooms.

Lu added that the premises where the strong rooms exist were also under surveillance of poll contestants.

Countering allegations by opposition parties that EVMs are being changed before counting of votes on May 23, Lu said there is no possibility of changing EVMs. He urged the public and leaders of political parties not to panic and have faith in the poll body. “The EVMs and VVPATs are kept under three-tier security,” he asserted.

Addressing a press conference in Lucknow, the CEO said unused EVMs were being transported from polling booths to store rooms in various constituencies and ignorant about this fact, candidates were expressing apprehension.

He added: “These unused EVMs were unloaded in store rooms before agents of political parties. They were also shown the sealed doors of the strongrooms.”

Lu said four complaints regarding EVMs were reported from Jhansi, Ghazipur, Domariyanganj (Siddharthnagar) and Chandauli. A report was sought from district magistrates of these districts and forwarded to the Election Commission,” he said.

Terming the allegation of SP-BSP candidates that EVMs have been tampered with as baseless, Lu said that to clear the confusion district magistrates held talks with the candidates and representatives of political parties. “It was found that the candidates had fallen prey to misunderstanding. After they were told the facts and were convinced, they withdrew their agitation,” he said.

“The BSP candidate from Ghazipur seat had demanded that five representatives of his party be allowed to keep vigil on strongrooms. The district election officer granted the demand and the candidate and his supporters withdrew the agitation,” Lu said.

“In Chandauli, unused EVMs were unloaded in the store located on the Mandi Parishad premises (where strong rooms also exist) after informing representatives of all political parties. Suddenly, the representatives of a political party raised objection. They demanded that unused EVMs should be kept in the district collectorate. Later, the EVMs were shifted to the collectorate premises with representatives of all political parties present during the shifting,” he said.

“In Domariyaganj, unused EVMs and VVPATs were transported to other constituencies after the conclusion of polling. Representatives of some political parties objected to the transportation and the district magistrate took the representatives to the strongroom for inspection. They expressed satisfaction. The list of EVMs and VVPATs that were transported were also provided to political parties,” the CEO said.

Lu said in Jhansi, unused EVMs were transported in the vehicle of city magistrate to the store. “Representatives of political parties were informed about the transportation. They were present when the EVMs were unloaded. The candidates expressed satisfaction. The DM also briefed the media about the matter and steps taken by administration to keep the EVMs secure,” he said.

“A report was also sought from DM of Mau after similar allegations of political parties. The allegation was found baseless,” Lu said, and added the media should counter rumours by bringing the facts before the people. He added that the EC was committed to ensuring free and fair elections.

In Azamgarh, the SP-BSP activists have deployed a team of 15 workers to keep a watch on the old warehouse of the Food Corporation of India where the EVMs have been kept after voting. A team of eight workers are keeping a vigil at the storehouse in rotation.

The district administration has issued passes to 15 members of SP and BSP.

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav is contesting from Azamgarh against Bhojpuri actor-turned-politician Dinesh Lal Yadav Nirahua of the BJP.

SP’s Azamgarh unit president Hawaldar Yadav said, “There are clear instructions to party workers to remain vigilant and inform senior leaders if any activity related to EVMs takes place at the storehouse.” In Mirzapur, Congress candidate Lalitesh Pati Tripathi alleged that at the instance of BJP leaders, the district administration had kept around 300 additional EVMs in a room adjacent to the strong room at government polytechnic.

Tripathi said, “When the additional EVMs were brought to government polytechnic on Sunday night, I spoke to deputy district election officer UP Singh and asked him not to store the EVMs close to the strongroom but he did not pay heed to my demand.” Tripathi also wrote to the election observer on Monday demanding that the additional (unused) EVMs should be removed from the polytechnic.

He said he had also written to the Election Commission in this regard.

District magistrate, Ghazipur, Anurag Patel said the Congress candidate was levelling false allegations. “Additional EVMs have been stored in a building 100 metres off the strong room. We have ensured tight security at the strongroom,” he said.

Congress workers also staged a dharna for a brief period on Monday night but they called off their protest after district authorities asked them if they wanted to guard the EVM strong room, they would be allowed to do so. The district administration has allowed four Congress workers to keep a watch at the strongroom.

In Varanasi, strong room has been created in Pahadia Mandi where EVMs have been kept under three-tier security. Officials said paramilitary forces and UP police personnel were guarding the strongroom

First Published:
May 22, 2019 02:21 IST

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