Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora on Thursday said the Election Commission is taking steps to ensure that incidents of Electronic Voting Machines malfunctioning are reduced to a minimum, PTI reported.

Arora said that EVMs were being “tossed like a football” in political discourse even though less than 1% of the 1.76 lakh machines deployed across the five states that went to polls recently had reportedly malfunctioned. Though political parties were free to target the poll panel and question its impartiality as it was their “right” as an important stakeholder, Arora criticised them for questioning the reliability of EVMs. “If the result is ‘X’, it is okay. But if it is ‘Y’, then the EVM is faulty,” he said.

“We are moving forward to ensure that there are not even a few incidents [of malfunction],” he said, adding that the Election Commission is constantly working to ensure that no incidents of EVM malfunctions occur. “An EVM is only a machine which records votes. Can it be programmed? No. A polite, but emphatic no.”

Arora said that tampering and malfunctioning are two separate things. “Tampering shows mala fide [intention],” he said. “Malfunctions can happen.”

Several incidents of malfunctioning EVMs were reported during the Assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan conducted in November and earlier this month. According to reports, EVMs had reached a collection centre in Madhya Pradesh’s Sagar district 48 hours after voting ended on November 28. In another incident in the state, a power outage had caused closed-circuit television cameras installed in an EVM strongroom to stop functioning for over an hour.

The Congress had also moved the Chhattisgarh High Court against irregularities in connection with polling held on November 12 and November 20. The party alleged that unauthorised officials had entered the strongrooms holding EVMs in Dhamtari, and that closed-circuit television cameras were turned off for a few hours in Durg.

Arora reiterated the Election Commission’s stand that the country would not go back to using ballot paper. The panel, under him, will hold the upcoming Lok Sabha elections as well as Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, Odisha, Maharashtra, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim.