The poll panel said that EVM is a stand-alone device with ‘robust’ administrative safeguards to protect it from manipulation.

What is the controversy?

The row erupted after Mid-Day newspaper published in its report that a relative of Ravindra Waikar, the winning Shiv Sena candidate from Mumbai North West Lok Sabha constituency, was allegedly found using a mobile phone “connected” to an EVM during the counting of votes on June 4. Waikar won the election by 48 votes.

The report claimed that Waikar’s brother-in-law Mangesh Pandilkar, had used a mobile phone to “unlock” an EVM when the votes were being counted. Quoting police, the report said that the mobile phone was used for generating the OTP that unlocked the EVM machine.

Pandilkar, and a polling official Dinesh Gurav, have been booked by the Vanrai Police under section 188 of the Indian Penal Code for flouting the poll panel’s ban on mobile phones inside counting centres.

What did the Election Commission say?

Vandana Suryavanshi, the returning officer of the seat, has rubbished the allegations. At a press conference on June 16, she said notices had been issued to Mid-Day and Marathi daily Lokmat for publishing ‘false’ news. She said that the EVM is a standalone system, not programmable and has no wireless communication capabilities.

Mumbai Police Denial

Even Mumbai police termed the media reports as fake and baseless and said that no such information (about a mobile phone being used to generate OTP to unlock EVM) was given by any official.

 

Suryavanshi, however, said the personal mobile phone of one Dinesh Gurav, the data entry operator of Jogeshwari assembly constituency, was found in the hands of an unauthorised person, and action is being taken in this regard, according to a report by news agency PTI.

Here is what the politicians said about the controversy.

Ensure transparency or abolish them: Rahul Gandhi

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said serious concerns are being raised about transparency in the country’s electoral process. “When democratic institutions are captured, the only safeguard lies in electoral processes that are transparent to the public. EVM is currently a black box. EC must either ensure complete transparency of the machines and processes, or abolish them..,” Gandhi said in a post on X.

Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan demanded that the poll result of the Mumbai North West Lok Sabha seat must be stayed after the controversy.

Release CCTV footage

Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Aaditya Thackeray demanded that the poll panel should release the CCTV footage related to the controversy during vote counting. “We have always had suspicions about this regime tampering with EVMs. Even Elon Musk has expressed his views, claiming everything can be hacked. Despite several requests, the Election Commission does not have the courage to release the CCTV footage of the counting day that would support our claims,” Thackeray said.

Elon Musk’s Post

Thackeray was referring to Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk pitching for eliminating EVMs. In a post on X, Elon Musk had said, “We should eliminate electronic voting machines. The risk of being hacked by humans or AI, while small, is still too high.”

Ex-IT Minister Counters

Former Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar countered Elon Musk’s criticism of EVMs and termed it a huge ‘sweeping generalisation.’ The Tesla boss responded, saying “anything can be hacked”.

Former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Akhilesh Yadav demanded that all future elections should be conducted through ballot papers. 

BJP should clarify, says Akhilesh Yadav

“’Technology’ is meant to solve problems, if it becomes the cause of problems then its use should be stopped. Today, when fears of EVM tampering are being expressed in many elections of the world and the world’s renowned technology experts are openly writing about the danger of EVM tampering, then what is the reason behind the insistence on using EVM, the BJP should clarify this. We reiterate our demand that all future elections be conducted using ballot papers,” Akhilesh Yadav posted on X in Hindi.

No Question of Hacking: BJP

BJP spokesperson Shehzad Poonawalla accused Rahul Gandhi of using a half-baked story to peddle his lies and fakery. ” The EC came out and clarified that no OTP is required for ‘unlocking’… EVMs are stand-alone machines. They are like calculators. There’s no network connectivity, so there’s no question of it being hacked,” Poonawalla told news agency ANI.

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Published: 17 Jun 2024, 09:33 AM IST


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