New Delhi: Only two political parties, the Sharad Pawar led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPM, will participate in the Election Commission’s (EC) challenge on hacking of electronic voting machines (EVMs).

All the other political parties, including the Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), have chosen not to participate.

EC had invited a total of 56 political parties (seven national and 49 state) to the open challenge on 3 June and the deadline for sending entries was 5 pm on Friday.

Former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad led Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)’s entry was received by the EC at 5.39pm, after the deadline, and hence was not ‘entertainable’, a senior EC spokesperson said.

Both AAP and the Congress have written to the EC, raising concerns about the rules of the EVM challenge.

AAP’s staying away from the challenge is significant because it had actively pursued its claim of tamperability of EVMs and made a hacking demonstration on the floor of the Delhi assembly.

Several critics of EVMs stayed away from the challenge. Former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which was the first after the elections to five state assemblies to question the credibility of EVMs, did not respond to the EC challenge.

The lack of response to the EC’s open challenge is significant because a total of 16 opposition parties led by the Congress held a meeting with officials of the commission last month at which they submitted an official memorandum questioning the credibility of EVMs and sought a return to the paper ballot system.

According to a senior EC spokesperson, among those who have expressed interest in ‘observing’ the challenge include the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) and Communist Party of India. All India N.R. Congress (AINRC) had written to the EC saying it was not going to participate.

“As per communication, NCP has nominated its 3 representatives for participating in the EVM challenge. Not chosen any 4 EVMs as per framework and left it to EC. Therefore, to organise challenge, EC will bring few EVMs from Punjab, Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Uttarakhand for conduct of challenge," said a senior EC spokesperson.

The three contenders from the NCP which will try to challenge the tamperability of the EVMs include its Rajya Sabha member Vandana Hemant Chavan.

Both NCP and CPM will take on the challenge simultaneously between 10am and 2pm on 3 June at EC’s national headquarters in New Delhi.

Earlier in the day, Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala wrote to the EC demanding relaxation of the rules. “The extensive terms and conditions that this challenge imposes prevent challengers to conduct a thorough test on the EVMs. We urge you to reconsider relaxing the three rules, as their inclusion undermines the very credibility of this initiative," the letter read.

On Thursday, EC had turned down AAP’s request of reconsidering rules of the challenge, particularly on allowing access to the motherboard of the EVM.

The EC had said in reply to AAP that change in circuits would mean that the EVM is no longer the one used by the poll watchdog.

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