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All You Need to Know About the Controversy Around EVM Hackathon

“Thirteen parties came and requested an all-party meeting and the EC has agreed. So people are taking bits and pieces of information from that. The commission wants all stakeholders to have belief in the system.… Whatever is coming in the media, is just guesswork,” he added.

News18.com

Updated:April 13, 2017, 6:05 PM IST
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All You Need to Know About the Controversy Around EVM Hackathon
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The debate around allegations of some Opposition parties that electronic voting machines (EVMs) can be rigged has acquired controversial overtones after Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal questioned the motive behind news stories on Thursday, which said Election Commission (EC) of India would soon challenge the EVM opponents to prove the machines are tamper proof.

To clear the confusion over what has actually happened in the past few days, News18 sifts through the facts, opinions, and rumours.

 How did the controversy around ‘EVM hackathon’ begin?

Several TV channels on Wednesday ran source-based news that the EC was planning to hold a week or 10-day-long challenge where EVMs would be deployed at its headquarters in New Delhi and all doubters will be given an opportunity to hack the machines. The story also appeared prominently in most newspapers on Thursday. While it’s a mystery who these sources are, and how they reached almost all TV channels and newspapers, no such official communication has come from the EC. Some newspaper on Thursday also claimed that a periodical exercise, where the Commission tries to clear doubts around EVMs, has been projected as a hackathon of sorts only to sensationalize the matter.

 Has such a hackathon ever taken place?

The last time such an event took place was in 2009 when 100 machines from different parts of the country were kept at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi. According to the EC, no one could hack the EVMs that time.

What is Arvind Kejriwal’s stand?

Questioning the source-based stories, Kejriwal posted several tweets on Wednesday evening and Thursday morning. “Why are these stories ascribed to ‘sources’? How credible are they? Why hasn’t EC issued any formal statement? Or is it just a plant? Has anyone actually seen any official statement from CEC? Am trying to get it since evening. Is this news correct?” he said in a series of tweets.

After his party’s dismal performance in recent Punjab and Goa polls, and Thursday’s by-poll in Rajouri Garden, West Delhi, Kejriwal, an IIT graduate, had claimed that if he was given access to a voting machine, he will prove within 24 hours how it can be manipulated.

What is Opposition’s stand on this issue?

A bloc of 13 opposition parties, excluding AAP, met President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday. “The recent cases of alleged tampering and malfunctioning of EVM machines, particularly in the recently concluded assembly elections, have raised bona fide concerns on the possibility of manipulating electoral outcomes,” the representation given by opposition parties to Mukherjee said.

After meeting the President, Ghulam Nabi Azad, leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha said, “The entire opposition including Congress is united on this issue that something is wrong with the EVMs, which is why we went to the EC and mentioned it in our memorandum to the President.” However, the reason behind Kejriwal’s absence was not explained by any opposition leader.

Earlier, on Monday, 16 opposition parties urged the Election Commission to revert to the paper ballot system in future elections saying tampering allegations have created “trust deficit” on the reliability of the EVMs. AAP participated in this meeting. The parties also slammed the Centre for failing to provide funds to the Commission to put in place sufficient number of voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The VVPAT dispenses a slip with the symbol of the party the elector has voted for.

 What is the EC stand?

Speaking to CNN-News18 on Thursday morning, Election Commissioner Om Prakash Rawat said: “Since this controversy, we have been preparing to prove the truth but nothing has crystallized yet.”

“Thirteen parties came and requested an all-party meeting and the EC has agreed. So people are taking bits and pieces of information from that. The commission wants all stakeholders to have belief in the system.… Whatever is coming in the media, is just guesswork,” he added.

 What is the Modi’s government saying?

Officially, the Centre has not made any statement on the issue. Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting M Venkaiah Naidu has downplayed the allegations. “The Congress Party and the Communist Party, in the wake of numerous defeats, are behaving like this… Now they are targeting the Election Commission. When they win then it’s okay, and when they don’t then it’s wrong. When the Congress won in 2004 then the EVMs were correct, when the AAP won in Delhi with 67 seats then EVMs were right, and now that the BJP has won then all of a sudden, they are alleging that the machines were tampered,” he said.

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