The Election Commission on Friday said that a rechecking of documents submitted by the Communist Party of India showed that they, along with the Nationalist Congress Party, had expressed interest in participating in the Electronic Voting Machine challenge, ANI reported. Earlier on Friday, the commission had said the Nationalist Congress Party was the lone contender in the challenge.
The EC’s statement also said the Rashtriya Lok Dal had sent an email saying they were interested in participating, but that their response was sent after the 5 pm deadline set for May 26. The EC said the RLD’s reply was thus not acceptable, ANI reported.
The commission had announced the “challenge” after political parties, including the Aam Aadmi Party and the Bahujan Samaj, Party alleged that the machines had been tampered with in recent elections. The event was scheduled for June 3.
The commission’s spokesperson had said that eight parties replied to their invitation to participate in the challenge. The Bharatiya Janata Party will be among other outfits that will “observe” the challenge. The Aam Aadmi Party, in a letter to the commission, accused the EC of going back on its promise to host a hackathon. The Congress, too, has raised concerns over the manner in which the challenge will be conducted.
AAP said it would only participate in real hackathon. The EC had declined its request to gain access to the motherboard and change it, CNN News18 reported. Congress leader Randeep Surjewala too made a similar demand, The Times of India reported.
The NCP has selected three representatives for the challenge, but has left the selection of the machines to the commission. The EC will use machines from Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand for the June 3 challenge. Assembly elections were recently held in the three states. AAP had alleged that EVMs had been rigged in all three states. The BJP had won in two of these, while the Congress had won the Punjab polls.
The AAP’s allegations were first made after the BJP won elections in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand by a massive majority. Later, they also won the civic polls in Delhi. The Aam Aadmi Party’s Saurabh Bhardwaj had also held a so-called demonstration, using a lookalike EVM, where he claimed that the machines could be hacked in 90 seconds. The EC refuted his party’s allegations, saying lookalike machines did not function the way the real one did.
The EC had also held a meeting with representatives of several political parties to assuage claims of EVM tampering. After the meeting, the commission had said that it would henceforth use only Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail machines for elections. The VVPATs provide voters with a copy of whom they have cast their ballot for, providing proof of their vote.