New Delhi: None of the opposition parties that cried foul about electronic voting machine (EVM) tampering have taken up the Election Commission’s (EC) challenge to hack the machines, even as registration for the event closes on Friday.

This includes the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which had made a hacking demonstration in the Delhi assembly. To be sure, political parties still have a day left (till 5pm on 26 May) to register for the challenge set up by the poll panel last month.

“As of now no request has been made but there is still time till 5pm tomorrow (Friday). We will have to wait and see if any political parties send their entries on the last day," a senior EC official said requesting anonymity. The EVM challenge is set to begin from 3 June.

The lack of entries by political parties is significant as it was parties such as the Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party apart from AAP which had questioned the credibility of EVMs being used in polls. AAP had demanded an open challenge.

Beginning with a demand for returning to ballot papers to later seeking a 100% paper trail for all polls—which was recently accepted by the EC—opposition parties have been suggesting that EVMS’ tampering was possible.

AAP was the most vehement and even conducted a ‘show and tell’ in the Delhi assembly to demonstrate tampering.

In a letter on Wednesday, AAP asked EC to reconsider the terms set for the challenge. Calling the open challenge bound by rules, AAP said tampering of any kind should be allowed, including access to the EVM motherboard. It also raised concerns over the four-hour time limit given to participants.

The EC, which has refused to change the rules, in its reply to AAP in a letter on Thursday said, “Very simply put, any ‘look-alike’ machine is just a different gadget, which is manifestly designed and made to function in a ‘tampered’ manner and has no relevance, incidence or bearing on the Commission’s EVMs."

“We are studying the Commission’s reply. The party will now take a call on participating in the challenge. We had hoped that the hackathon would be held in a more real scenario. The rules and conditions set by the Commission do not make it conducive for an open hackathon," said a senior leader of the AAP, who did not wish to be named.

According to the rules laid out by the Commission, a political party can nominate a maximum of three authorized persons and use two methods to tamper with the machine which include a combination of keys and external wireless equipment.

The two methods are to prove that results were altered either after the polls or before or during the polling. The EVMs to be used are from the recently concluded polls in five states.

“Only those political parties, which respond by 5pm on 26 May 2017 with the EC, shall be allowed to participate in the EVM challenge," the EC said in a communication following its announcement of the challenge on 20 May.

The Congress party too is yet to send its entry for the EVM challenge. “Congress is yet to formalize its stand on the issue but it will take a responsible position as a national party," said Vivek Tankha, in-charge of the party’s legal cell.

When asked whether it is going to put in a challenge or not, Tankha added: “Everybody has been thinking about it, we will take a reasoned call on it."

A senior Left party leader said that in the event of the open challenge happening, they will only send an ‘observer’ to witness the demonstration of the EVM and not a challenger.

PTI contributed to the story.

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