EVM 'hacking' row over Mumbai North West seat result

Winner’s kin used mobile to tamper with machine: Oppn
Last Updated : 16 June 2024, 15:38 IST

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Mumbai: The Lok Sabha elections to the Mumbai North West seat has taken a new turn with allegations that winning Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Waikar’s relative was seen with  a mobile phone at the counting centre which was used to generate one-time password (OTP) to unlock an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) - a charge which dismissed by the Returning Officer. 

The media report on OTPs and EVMs gained traction on social media platforms leading to a political row and the debate on EVMs-vs-ballot papers. 

However, the Vanrai police station has launched investigations into allegations that a person associated with Waikar had carried a mobile phone inside the counting centre. 

The FIR has named Mangesh Pandilkar, a relative and aide of Waikar and Dinesh Gurav, who was an Encore poll-portal operator. 

In the elections, Waikar, who is with the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena defeated Amol Kirtikar of Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena (UBT) by a margin of 48 votes.

The Thackeray-led party candidate has already filed a complaint  with the Election Commission.

Mumbai Suburban Additional Collector Vandana Suryavanshi, who was the Returning Officer, rejected the charge. 

"There is no system of OTPs on a mobile phone for unlocking EVMs as it is not programmable and has no wireless communication capabilities. It is a complete lie,” she told a hurriedly-convened news conference.

The media outlet is also being served with a legal notice. 

“…Gurav is a data entry operator in the election office of Jogeshwari assembly constituency. His mobile phone was found with an unauthorised person (Pandilkar) for which action is being taken,” she said. 

Suryavanshi clarified that data entry and counting-process are two different things. "An OTP enables the ARO to open the Encore login system for data entry, " she said, adding that none of the two candidates Waikar and Kirtikar did not ask for recounting but verification of invalid postal ballots was asked and carried out. 

“Counting of Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS) happens in physical form and not electronic as being spread through false narratives,” she said, adding: “Every counting sheet at every table for ETPBS and EVM counting and postal ballot counting (including ETPBS) is signed by all counting agents after due diligence”. 

On the CCTV footage, she said unless there are orders from the competent court it cannot be provided. 

“EVMs have  advanced technical features and robust administrative safeguards are in place to rule out any possibility of manipulation

The safeguards include conducting everything in the presence of candidates or their agents,” she said. 

Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde said: “In places where the Shiv Sena (UBT) won there was no issue with EVMs but where they have lost…its just a smear campaign.” 

Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Aaditya Thackeray said that the EC is “entirely compromised”. Once a traitor, always a traitor!  “The case of the Shinde gang candidate from North West Mumbai gets murkier, as the ‘gaddar’ candidate indulges in treachery with democracy now. Surprisingly, or not, the Entirely Compromised- election commission, has refused to share CCTV footage of the counting centre.  I guess it’s trying to avoid another Chandigarh moment. We always said BJP and Shinde gang want to end our democracy and change our constitution.This malpractice is a part of their constant effort to do so.”

Who is Amol Kirtikar

Kirtikar is son of two-time MP Gajanan Kirtikar, who had switched over to Shinde’s team.

Since Thackeray fielded Amol Kirtikar, his father kept away from the polls. 

More than a month after Kirtikar’s name was announced, Waikar, a sitting MLA,  joined Shinde’s party to contest against his former party colleague.

The counting centre for Mumbai North West was set up at the Nesco Complex in Goregaon. 

Published 16 June 2024, 15:38 IST

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