Home / Politics / Policy /  Election Commission’s EVM challenge a damp squib

New Delhi: In a damp squib, neither of the two political parties—Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPM—which had registered as challengers, went ahead with attempting to hack the electronic voting machines (EVMs) on Saturday.

This effectively means that the Election Commission’s EVM challenge, which was open to 7 national parties and 49 state parties, went unchallenged and would help the poll watchdog cement its claims that the EVMs under administrative and technical safeguards are non-tamperable. A number of opposition parties had raised doubts about the credibility of the voting machines.

“CPM said that they do not want to participate in the challenge and only want to understand and see the whole EVM process. A detailed demonstration was given to them and their technical doubts were cleared in depth," chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi told reporters at the end of the challenge. Zaidi added that CPM representative expressed complete satisfaction over the process and suggested that such exercises to create awareness about it.

“NCP representatives too said that they do not want to take participate in any challenge and only want to be a part of an academic exercise... NCP in a letter has expressed concerns on 8 issues and we will be responding on it seperately," Zaidi said. He added that NCP representatives said that their cause of doubts had emerged from EVMs which were used in the Maharashtra municipal polls to which the EC said those EVMs are not their but of the State Election Commission.

In reply to queries by reporters that NCP representatives claimed the exercise was an ‘eye-wash’ and they were not ‘allowed’ to hack the machines, Zaidi explained that all opportunity was given to them to take on the challenge and they still have an option to come back to the EC to attempt the challenge again.

Zaidi added that with an announcement of 100% VVPAT coverage for all the upcoming polls, the EC will ensure ‘purity and integrity’ of the election process. EC’s open challenge to prove tamperability of the EVMs comes in the backdrop of a growing chorus by opposition parties questioning credibility of the machines.

The EVM challenge comes a day after the Uttarakhand high court stayed a plea challenging the constitutionality of the challenge and said that there is no scope to doubt the fair working of the voting machines. It also added, according to a news report by Press Trust of India, that as a form of greater good of the public, all national, state and other political parties, NGOs and individuals, electronic media, press, radio, social media, and other platforms have been barred from criticising the use of EVMs in the recent state assembly elections until the decision of election-related petitions are pending in the court of law.

Several critics of the EVM, particularly Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Congress party and one of the first critics since the assembly polls this year—Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have stayed away from the challenge. AAP had conducted a ‘show and tell’ in the Delhi assembly to demonstrate tampering.

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