Two days to go for the counting of votes for the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, and a video showing a group of Samajwadi Party workers confronting officials transporting Electronic Voting Machines goes viral on social media.on after the video went viral on March 8, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav accused the Bharatiya Janata Party of “stealing” votes.
The claim was however found misleading, as the EVMs caught by the SP workers were reportedly not used for voting. According to official sources, the EVMs were being transferred for training the counting officers despite Varanasi’s Commissioner Deepak Agarwal admitting that there were lapses in the protocols for transportation of EVMs.
The District Magistrate of Varanasi clarified to the media that the EVMs were taken for training purposes for officers on counting duty.
“Counting workers’ 2nd training is scheduled for tomorrow at UP College. 20 EVMs were being taken on a pickup van for hands-on training. These EVMs are always used for training purposes. In UP College, training of 928 counting employees is going on in 16 rooms. The EVMs which were used in the elections are all sealed in the strong room and are in the possession of CRPF and there is CCTV surveillance which is being watched by people of all political parties,” Varanasi Kaushal Raj Sharma said.
The office of Uttar Pradesh’s Chief Electoral Officer also clarified that the EVMs were being brought in Varanasi for training, while also stating that the EVMs used in polling were sealed and were under constant surveillance.
If we observe the EVM boxes closely, as seen in the viral video, there are yellow and pink stickers on the boxes with ‘‘Training/Awareness EVM’’ written on them.
However, Akhilesh Yadav, during a press meet reportedly claimed that no information was given to his party candidates concerning the transport of the EVMs.
“If the EVMs were being transported for training, why weren’t the candidates informed?” the former UP chief minister said. Congress party spokesperson Pawan Khera also questioned why training was scheduled just 36 hours before the counting of votes.
Former IAS officer Sanjeev Gupta had also tweeted that according to the Election Commission protocol, no EVM can be transported without informing the Election Commission.
“Political Parties should necessarily be invited to witness this process from the opening of warehouse and resealing of the warehouse after taking out the EVMs/VVPATs for training and awareness. The entire process to be videographed,” notes chapter 5, section 12 of the Election Commission of India manual on Electronic Voting Machine and VVPAT.
It is hence clear that while there was a protocol violation in the transport of the EVMs, even if they were for training purposes.