Jaipur: The much-maligned Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) are likely to raise a storm in Rajasthan ahead of Assembly elections in November.
As the process of the first level checking (FLC) is on, many of these machines have reportedly “failed” the test. Around 800 units of EVM were found defective in the initial trial. All the rejected machines have been sent back to Bharat Heavy Electrical Limited (BHEL) for “repairs”.
The election commission conducts FLC of new machines followed by rehearsals of EVMs and voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPATs) before the polling day in front of representatives from registered parties.
However, Opposition parties in Rajasthan have been demanding return to ballot paper voting. Congress, the principal Opposition party, had cried foul during the by-election to Dholpur Assembly constituency last year and bypolls in two Lok Sabha and one Assembly constituencies in February this year after a large number of VVPAT machines had “malfunctioned”.
“There are genuine concerns about EVMs. They are not foolproof as we have experienced, particularly in Uttar Pradesh. Therefore, the Congress has been demanding use of ballot papers,” said advocate Sushil Sharma, head of state legal and IT cell of the Congress.
However, Nahar Singh Maheshwari, head of BJP’s election commission wing, accused the Congress of making much ado about nothing. “There may be some issues, which are common in any electronic item, but the number is insignificant to affect the overall results. The Congress is creating unnecessary hype,” he alleged.
Two lakh new EVMs and VVPATs would be used in the Assembly elections in November. They would be supplied by the government-owned BHEL. The election department had replaced all the old EVMs with brand-new M-3 EVMs, which are VVPAT-compatible. The election department has claimed that defects were minor and found in less than one per cent machines. The number of faulty machines is 235 ballot units and 550 control units out of total 76,700 ballot units and 63,992 control units received by the state so far. Jaipur has received 6,735 ballot units and 5,695 control units of EVMs, of which 40 ballot and 57 control units failed the test, respectively.
The number of failed control units was more than the ballot paper everywhere. In Sriganganagar, 75 control units failed compared to 21 ballot units.
Notwithstanding the election department’s claim, the Congress said it was a cause for concern. “Even a handful of machines can play a crucial role in the outcome as even a few votes can mar chances of a candidate in Assembly elections,” Mr Sharma said.