Congress U-turn: finds fault with EVMs in Gujarat

The Congress, which had 15 months ago scoffed at L K Advani's apprehensions about electronic voting machines (EVMs) saying it hoped the BJP leader's fears "do not betray a lack of grace over the loss of elections", today complained to the Gujarat State Election Commission that the BJP is "tampering" with EVMs to "manipulate" results of panchayat polls.

"It is learnt from some reliable sources that... BJP is trying to manipulate the results once again in taluka/district panchayat election to be held today. To manipulate the result there by tampering electronic voting machine by usage of laptop, some technocrats along with laptops have been sent by the BJP," Gujarat Congress general secretary Girish Parmar said in a memorandum to the CEC of the Gujarat Election Commission.

Parmar said that since "EPROM (erasable programmable read-only memory) can be easily intercepted through bluetooth or RS-232 port serial data cable..., no laptop or computer should be permitted... within 100-metre radius" of polling booths.

In July 2009, Advani had told The Sunday Express that India should revert to ballot papers for Assembly elections later that year unless the Election Commission could ensure that EVMs were foolproof. Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi had then said, "I hope and trust that (Advani's comments) do not betray a lack of grace over the loss of elections. We hope that Advani will not take the country back to the dark ages."

The Congress had also cited (the then) Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi's statement that an expert committee had looked into whether EVMs could be rigged, and concluded that they could not.

Today, Congress spokesman Mohan Prakash defended his party's U-turn on EVMs saying that the BJP allegation was "negative without evidence", whereas the Congress has "evidence". According to Prakash, at one polling booth the EVM registered 111 votes for BJP, whereas only 44 people had voted. At another booth, when a voter pressed a button to vote, the light in front of the other candidate's name came on, he said.

The BJP swept the municipal corporation polls in Gujarat earlier this month. Elections for panchayats and municipalities were held today.

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