Jammers, strict rules: Maharashtra Congress lists ways to ‘keep polls fair’

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In a bid to prevent tampering, the Maharashtra Congress on Monday demanded that jammers be installed in strongrooms, where electronic voting machines (EVMs) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) boxes are stored, and also at the counting centres. It also demanded that candidates be allowed to choose EVMs and VVPATs that need to be tallied for discrepancies, instead of the random sampling procedure that is currently followed.

State Congress chief Ashok Chavan led a delegation of leaders Bhai Jagtap, Naseem Khan and Baba Siddique to meet Maharashtra chief electoral officer Ashwani Kumar to suggest “preventive measures” for a “free and fair” election. “Jammers are required as EVMs can be tampered with using wireless networks such as mobile towers and WiFi. They should be installed in strongrooms as well as during the counting process,” he said.

The party’s ally, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), meanwhile, expressed fears that candidates of the ruling party may tamper with EVMs and demanded the Election Commission bar candidates from entering the strongrooms. In a letter to Kumar, NCP state president Jayant Patil said modern technology can be used to tamper with EVMs using remote systems.

The Maharashtra election officials, meanwhile, dismissed the fears. A senior official, who did not wish to be named, said, “It is not possible to hack it. If that were the case, there would have been attempts to do so earlier. The fears seem unfounded, but the final decision will be taken by the CEO.”

“According to the process, the collector or the returning officer picks five machines in an Assembly constituency to tally votes in VVPATs. Instead, we have demanded the candidate should be allowed to pick the five EVMs he wishes to check against VVPATs. Our demand is that 50% of EVMs should be tallied against VVPATs, but that is pending in the Supreme Court,” said Chavan.

The Congress leader also requested the CEO to declare the result sheets of each round of counting only after it is duly prepared and signed by the returning officer. “This would leave out any chance of a change in numbers declared at the Centre and on the central server,” Chavan said.

The Congress also demanded that counting be carried out in descending order of the names that appear on the machine. Currently, it is done in the ascending order.

Chavan said the CEO will forward the demands to the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and said Kumar was “positive” about it.

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