The Election Commission (EC) on Thursday ruled out any possibility of returning to the use of paper ballots to conduct polls even as the controversy over the credibility of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) rekindled this week.
“We are not going back to the era of ballot papers and we are not going back to that era where we have ballot papers being lifted (and) muscle-men being employed, besides the delay in the counting and also too much harassment of the polling staff on the ground,” Chief Election Commissioner, Sunil Arora, said.
Several opposition parties have been questioning the credibility of the EVMs. The Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Telugu Desam Party recently reiterated the demand to return to the use of paper ballots.
“We are open to any criticism, any feedback, from any stakeholders, including the political parties, because they are the biggest stakeholders. But, at the same time, we are not going to be intimidated or bullied or pressurized, or coerced into giving up these (the EVMs) and start the era of ballot boxes,” said the CEC.
He was speaking after inaugurating an international conference on “Making our Elections Inclusive and Accessible”.
The controversy over the credibility of the EVMs rekindled on Monday, when Syed Shuja, who claimed to be a US-based cyber expert, addressed reporters in London through Skype and claimed that the machines had been hacked to rig the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in favour of the ruling BJP.
The EC, however, dismissed the allegation and even lodged a complaint with Delhi Police against Syed Shuja.
The poll panel vouched for the credibility of the EVMs used to conduct elections in the country.
The commission reiterated that none of the EVMs, which the state-owned Electronic Corporation of India Limited and Bharat Electronics Limited manufactured for it to conduct polls, could be linked with any other device through any wireless networks.
“We will continue to use (the) EVMs and (the) VVPATs (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail devices),” said the CEC.
He also pointed it out that the recent elections conducted with the EVMs had seen different political parties winning the mandates of people. Hence, he argued, it was wrong to cast aspersion on the EVMs if the outcome of any particular elections had gone in a particular way.
“If the result is X, the EVM is right and the result turns out to be Y, the EVM is faulted! Why have we made a machine, which are manufactured under highly secured conditions by the two PSUs doing a lot of work for the defence establishments of our country. Why have we made it like a football, and are doing a motivated slugfest over it?” wondered Arora.
The EC on Thursday also renewed its Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation in the field of election management with the Election Commission of Bhutan.