Poll process, not EVMs, faulty

Analysis casts aspersions on election process during Pune civic poll

March 20, 2017 12:37 am | Updated 03:13 am IST

Pune: Since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept the civic polls in Pune on February 23, opposition parties have alleged that the BJP’s overwhelming victories were largely due to the result of EVM tampering.

However, an analysis by city-based RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar, based on data from the State Election Department, casts aspersions on the election process during the crucial Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) poll, in which the BJP secured a record 98 of 162 seats.

According to him, the fault lay not so much with the EVM machine as to the election process itself. Analysis of just one ward reveals discrepancies between control unit (CU) numbers and ballot unit (BU) numbers of various booths in the ward before polling day and during the actual day of voting.

Nearly 27 lakh registered voters had to elect 162 candidates from 41 panels [wards] in the PMC poll, voting for which concluded on February 21. In 39 of these wards, the voter had to elect four candidates in each of these wards, while in the remaining two wards, the voter had to elect three candidates from each ward.

“I’m not making allegations for the sake of it, but plain facts in this case cast doubt on the entire procedure followed during the PMC poll. These facts are based on documents provided by the Election Department itself,” Mr. Kumbhar told The Hindu . He pointed out that in ward no. 33, which comprised the city’s Wadgaon Dhayari-Wadgaon Budruk area, around five BU numbers were changed without prior intimation to the candidates.

Randomisation process

As per procedure, the EVMs were checked, randomised, allotted booth and sequence wise, and sealed in presence of the authorities, candidates or their representatives, and a representative of the EVM manufacturing company on February 15, six days before the voting. The randomisation implies allotment of BU and CU numbers to corresponding booths, with the BU and CU charts given to the candidates or their representatives. The sequence of candidates was also set on the same day.

“However, on the actual polling day [February 21], when the polling staff opened ballot units, the serial numbers were different from those recorded and sealed on February 15,” said Mr. Kumbhar.

According to him, in booth numbers 10, 12, 28, 49 and 50, the ballot unit numbers were P44052, P 43551, MO22334, P 143888 and P14390 on February 15. However, the ballot unit numbers corresponding to these booths somehow changed to P14992, P11947, MO23334, P 14386 and MO 27617 on polling day.

“Is it possible that despite all precautions, ballot units were changed on voting day? This is very serious and the Election Commission has to clarify these glaring discrepancies,” said Mr. Kumbhar.

According to the documents, the CU numbers for booth numbers 24 and 30 [in ward number 33] in the copy handed over to the candidates were M22232 and M21591, but on polling day, the figures were inexplicably changed to 7507 and M21595. The sequence of ballot units was also found changed in 20 booths in ward no. 33.

The rules plainly stipulate that a ballot unit be connected to the control unit according to a particular sequence allotted to them.

“Changing that sequence is tantamount to an exchange of votes among candidates. Just how anyone could have access to sealed machines is anybody’s guess. The matter has to be probed sternly and objectively,” said Mr. Kumbhar.

Late discovery

The main reason why many candidates, who recently discovered these lapses, woke up so late is that in most cases, they did not bother to collect Form 11 which is due from the election office. This form enumerates the number of voters casting their votes in a particular booth, along with the BU and CU numbers. Had the candidates collected this form from election authorities at the end of voting day, they would have discovered the error in their BU and CU numbers on February 21 itself. “Instead most were caught up in election fervour, with their eyes on the counting two days later,” said Mr. Kumbar.

Mismatch in tally

In fact, according to data made public by the PMC’s election office, soon after the counting of votes on February 23, it was found that at least 14 electoral panels had a lesser vote count than the actual number of votes polled. As per the election process, the total number of votes cast should remain the same for each of the four wards in an electoral panel and match the polling data.

Late last month, candidates from prominent parties, including the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Shiv Sena, and the Congress took to the street accusing the ruling BJP of tampering with the EVMs.

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