The Election Commission on Tuesday dismissed claims by Opposition parties that electronic voting machines are being moved around in the days ahead of the counting of votes. It also rejected allegations of discrepancies at the strong rooms where the EVMs have been kept prior to the election results on May 23.

The returning officer of Ghazipur constituency in Uttar Pradesh said rumours have spread in the media that candidates were prevented from guarding the EVM strong rooms. The returning officer said that he has issued instructions to the Sub-Divisional Magistrate to allow every candidate to keep a watch at three vantage points for eight hours each, appointing one agent each for the purpose. However, he added that the administration has declined permission for several persons to watch over the strong room at a time.

The poll panel dismissed allegations made by Opposition leaders that two trucks carrying EVMs were caught in Chandauli Lok Sabha constituency. In Domariyaganj and Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh too, the voting machines were kept under proper security and protocol, it added. The poll panel said protests in Domariyaganj were unnecessary and the demonstrators have been persuaded by police officers to abandon the agitation.

“In fact, in all the cases, polled EVMs and Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail machines were sealed properly in front of the political parties’ candidates in videography,” the poll panel said. “CCTV cameras are there.”

“The apprehensions regarding EVMs are baseless,” the Ghazipur district administration tweeted. “EVMs are in strong room with 24x7 CISF security. And candidates have been allowed to post their agents to monitor the strong room.”

The protests

A group of Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Congress workers had protested at Navin Krishi Mandi Sthal in Chandauli on Monday evening, alleging that EVMs were being changed at the instance of the BJP, the Hindustan Times reported. But the administration denied this. “Thirty-five additional unused EVMs were kept at the Sakaldiha tehsil,” District Election Officer Naveen Singh Chahal said. “These couldn’t be transported on Sunday and were brought from Sakaldiha on Monday to be stored in a different place.”

Additional Chief Electoral Officer BDR Tiwari said the district administration held a meeting with leaders of all political parties to resolve the matter.

Ghazipur SP-BSP alliance candidate Aizaz Ansari organised a protest some metres from the strong room, claiming that EVMs from other districts were being brought there. Ansari continued his protest till late at night despite efforts by district election officer K Balaji to convince him. Ansari’s opponent for the Ghazipur constituency is Union minister Manoj Sinha of the BJP.

In Domariyaganj, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party workers had alleged on May 14 that they had “caught” a mini-truck full of EVMs being driven out of the compound of a storage room, NDTV reported. The workers claimed this was evidence of the BJP trying to tamper with EVMs. The administration said these were extra EVMs they received before polling began.

Meeting with Election Commission

On Tuesday, some Opposition leaders will meet the Election Commission to talk about tallying paper trail of votes, or VVPATs, with electronic voting machine figures, PTI reported. On May 7, the Supreme Court declined to hear a review petition filed by 21 Opposition parties urging it to direct the poll panel to cross-check at least 50% votes using Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail slips during the Lok Sabha elections that concluded on Sunday.

The court has asked the Election Commission to tally the VVPAT slips with the figures in five voting machines in each Assembly constituency.