Is the Election Commission Doing Enough to Allay Fears of EVM Tampering?

While the opposition parties have always been convinced that EVMs could be hacked, the fears have now seeped into the country’s hinterland.

New Delhi: If elections can be rigged by hacking the electronic voting machines (EVM) or not continues to be a mystery. In light of reports highlighting multiple alleged security violations in the strong rooms, the suspicion that EVMs could be tampered has found resonance among opposition parties.

The long gap between the voting and counting in states like Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh hasn’t helped the volatile situation on the ground. Most party workers, across states, have stayed put outside the strong rooms, vigilantly watching and reporting any kind of suspicious activity.

The anxiety on ground was also backed by the Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who is hoping his party will wrest a few states from the BJP in the ongoing assembly polls.

In the past few days, a number of such incidents of security breaches came up.

In Chhattisgarh, at least three such cases were reported. First, in Bemetara, a Border Security Force guard was found using laptops in the strong room.

On Friday, two people, who claimed to be Reliance Jio employees were apprehended suspiciously close to the strong room in Jagdalpur in the Bastar region. Since they had laptops, the Congress workers alleged that they were trying to hack the EVMs.

Similarly, in Dhamtari an unauthorised person was allowed into the strong room by a district official. When the Congress complained, the election commission of India (ECI) suspended the official who let the person in, while maintaining that this was an exceptional case.

While the the state unit of the Congress raised a hue and cry over the incidents, the ECI admitted to the security breach but asserted that the EVMs were safe.

ECI press conference in Delhi

The senior deputy election commissioner in the ECI, Umesh Sinha, told reporters in New Delhi, “The mobile tower was inside the premises of the building where EVMs were stored. The security guard allowed the mobile phone company’s employees in. And that was a security breach. But I want to assure that they were at least 100 metres away from the strong room, around the area where the mobile tower stood.”

The ECI official also said that the EVMs could not be hacked as they could not be connected to the internet.

In Madhya Pradesh, too, at least four such cases were reported. In Bhopal, an hour-long power outage in the strong room led to a CCTV camera blackout. It was only after the opposition parties complained that the ECI admitted its failure and installed generators for the strong room.

Similarly, in Khurai, the Congress pointed out that 34 EVMs reached the strong room only after 48 hours after voting in an unauthorised van.

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