Even ‘Voter Verifiable Paper Trail’ found wanting at Bhind

What was meant to be a demonstration of a fool-proof EVM machine with VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Trail) went horribly wrong on Friday at Bhind, MP, in the presence of the Chief Electoral Officer

Photo by Kunal Patil/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Kunal Patil/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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Vishwadeepak

Even the Voter Verifiable Paper Trail (VVPAT) attached to Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) do not seem to be tamper-proof, if media reports and a video circulating on social media are any indication.


The Chief Electoral Officer of Madhya Pradesh, Saleena Singh, IAS of 1986 batch, was demonstrating the functioning of the EVM with VVPAT at the Bhind Collectorate in Madhya Pradesh on Friday. This was related to the bypoll for the Ater Assembly constituency scheduled for April 9.


Present at the Collectorate was the Bhind District Magistrate, representatives of political parties and a group of local journalists. But, while the demonstration (see video) was meant to establish the tamper-proof system, it went horribly wrong when the CEO began pressing the buttons on the EVM.


An eyewitness recalled that whichever button was pressed by the CEO, the screen would flash the electoral symbol of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the paper trail also recorded the vote to have been cast in favour of the ruling party.


Number one on the machine was allotted to the BJP and when pressed, the screen flashed the lotus symbol and the paper slip also recorded it in favour of BJP, reported Hindi newspaper Nai Dunia. The CEO then proceeded to press the number four button on the EVM and there were titters as the screen again flashed BJP’s symbol and the paper trail recorded the vote in favour of the ruling party.


There was nervous laughter and officials present also felt sheepish. In the video that went viral the CEO can be heard telling journalists to ensure that the goof up is not reported. “Samajh gaye na. Parchi koi bhi aaye press me nahi dena hai. Nahi to thane me baitha dungi.” (This should not come in the Press or else I will ensure that you are detained at the police station).


National Herald reached out to the CEO for her version of the demonstration. But she declined to speak beyond the standard response, “Mujhe kuch nahin pata is ke baare mein (I know nothing about it).”


But, despite her warning, at least two Hindi newspapers, Rajasthan Patrika and Nai Dunia carried reports on the demonstration that went awry. A few TV channels also showed the video clips.

Even ‘Voter Verifiable Paper Trail’ found wanting at Bhind

In view of allegations that the Electronic Voting Machines were being manipulated, the Supreme Court had directed the Election Commission in 2014 to ensure that Voter Verifiable Paper Trail (VVPAT) was introduced in elections. The EC has been able to introduce VVPAT in select constituencies as the government is yet to respond to its demand for ₹3,500 crore needed to introduce the printer and link it to all EVMs.

Even ‘Voter Verifiable Paper Trail’ found wanting at Bhind

But even an SOS from the Chief Election Commissioner to the Prime Minister has failed so far to elicit any response—as reported in The Indian Express last month.


But now the demonstration at Bhind indicates that even the VVPAT is no longer tamper-proof.


Predictably, Congress demanded that ballot papers be used in the Ater byelection. Madhya Pradesh Congress spokesman KK Mishra said, “We will go to court if needed. Also, we will write a letter to the Election Commission and urge them to ensure that faulty machines should not be used in the byelection.” A Congress delegation led by Vivek Tankha and Jyotiraditya Scindia met Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi regarding the issue in New Delhi on Saturday.

This article was updated at 1.31 pm on April 2, 2017 to reflect the abbreviation ‘VVPAT’ in place of ‘VVPT’.

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Published: 01 Apr 2017, 4:23 PM