Gujarat Elections: Congress issues instructions for polling agents

NEW DELHI: In the upcoming Gujarat elections congress does not want to take any chance and has prepared a new training module for polling agents.

Has the data from previous polling been cleared? Was the electronic voting machine (EVM) sealed in front of you? Check the code of the machine and the seal to ensure that the same machine sealed in front of you is used for polling.

These are some of the dos and don’ts prepared by Congress as part of a training module for candidates and their polling agents in the run up to the Gujarat assembly elections. Wary of EVMs faltering in booths in the crucial elections, Congress has prepared this module for polling agents to educate them about the functioning of EVMs. The party has also given strict instructions to the state unit to ensure that the training programmes being conducted by the Election Commission are attended conscientiously.

A senior Congress leader told: “The Election Commission of India (EC) might maintain that EVMs cannot be hacked, but incidents of vote being cast to BJP when some other party’s symbol is pressed are being reported from all across the country. So, we have prepared a module for polling agents, so they know what to look out for. This is standard practice for polling agents but with the new incidents we have flagged certain points that need to be watched out for.”

This is the first time that Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines are being used in all booths. This allows voters to verify their vote after registering it on EVMs and the paper trail allows for an audit of the election results by the EC in a select number of constituencies.

Parties have been making regular demands for VVPATs to be used during elections after alleging EVMs may not be completely secure and tamper-proof.

Congress is unhappy with this move as well. “There is no paper tallying in all booths. It is only in a few constituencies — about 10%. So it does not help in proving or disproving anything. We are being careful and training our own cadres, so they know what to watch out for,” said a state unit leader

Around 70,182 VVPATs will be used in the Gujarat polls that will be held in two phases on December 9 and 14. Of these, 46,000 devices are brand new and are coming directly from Bengaluru-based Bharat Electronics Ltd and Hyderabad-based Electronics Corporation of India. The rest have been procured from 11 states including Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, Haryana, and Goa.

Working procedure of VVPATs

After a voter presses the button on the EVM against the chosen candidate, the VVPAT prints a slip containing the name of the candidate and the election symbol and drops it automatically into a sealed box. The machines give the chance for the voter to verify their vote. The machine is placed in a glass case in a way that only the voter can see it. The slip is displayed to the voter for seven seconds after which the VVPAT machine cuts it and drops in into the storage box with a beep. The machines can be accessed, though, by the polling officials and not by the voter.