Despite claims to the contrary by the Election Commission of India (EC), a concrete instance of an electronic voting machine (EVM) "malfunction" in Maharashtra has been conclusively established, information obtained under RTI revealed here on Saturday.
The "EVM fraud" concerns the recently held elections to Buldhana Zilla Parishad from Lonar, at a polling station in Sultanpur village of the district, said RTI activist Anil Galgali.
"Everytime the voter pressed a symbol of Coconut, allotted to a candidate, the LED lamp of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s Lotus used to flash. This was reported to the District Collector by the Returning Officer (RO) in his inquiry report and furnished under an RTI query," Galgali told IANS.
The activist filed his RTI query on June 16, after learning of the aggrieved Independent candidate Asha Arun Zore's complaint on the "EVM fraud" during the February 16 elections, and demanded details of the probe report submitted by the RO.
"The Buldhana collectorate's election department replied that at polling station No. 56 in Sultanpur of Lonar town, when the voter pressed the Independent candidate No. 1's Coconut symbol, the LED lamp flashed against the BJP candidate No. 4's Lotus symbol, signifying that the vote had gone to the latter," Galgali explained.
Surprisingly, when candidate Asha Arun Zore lodged her first complaint on the EVM problems at 10 am that day, the Election Officer at the polling station refused to take cognizance of such a serious issue, he pointed out.
However, it was only after complaints poured in from many voters that the Election Officer finally took note around 1.30 p.m -- when half the voting time had lapsed -- and obtained consent of the polling agents of all parties before taking action.
On checking the complaints, Election Officer Manikrao Baazad found substance in them and this was reconfirmed by the polling station in-charge Ramnarayan Sawant, who informed the RO, Lonar of the incident.
The Assistant RO of Lonar -- globally know for the Lonar Crater Lake -- personally visited the polling station and verified that while pressing a particular candidate's button, the lamp for candidate No. 4 (BJP) used to glow.
The election was cancelled in that booth after the reports of various election officials were sent to the Collector, the polling station was closed, the "malfunctioning" machine was sealed and a standby unit was put into operation.
However, after several parties demanded a repoll, it was conceded and a repoll was conducted after five days on February 21, the RTI revealed.
"This case conclusively proves an 'EVM fraud'. It was brought to notice by a voter, confirmed by many other voters, the RO and other officials also reconfirmed it and sent a report to the Collector," Galgali pointed out.
Strangely, he said the EC had consistently denied any EVM fraud and even asked the political parties to prove "managed EVMs" by organising demonstrations.
"In order to avoid such repetition in future, the EC must consider alternatives to the EVMs which can be tampered with," he cautioned.