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Row erupts in India over electronic voting machine after Musk tweet

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A tweet by Elon Musk on electronic voting machines has reignited a debate in India over their reliability. Just a week after announcing the general election results, Rahul Gandhi from Congress and other members of the opposition party have claimed that the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) had been tampered with by a candidate from the Shiv Sena party who contested and won elections from the Mumbai North West Lok Sabha (lower house of parliament) to win the elections.
Rahul Gandhi posted this on social media after alleged remarks on a relative of Shiv Sena’s candidate, Ravindra Waikar, who won the polls from Mumbai’s North-West seat by 48 votes, had a phone that unlocks an EVM.

It is alleged that a mobile phone was connected to the EVM machine during the counting of votes on June 4. However, Vandana Suryavanshi who was appointed by Election Commission to count the votes has dismissed the alleged reports of tampering and has called this as ‘fake news.’
A defamation notice has been issued to the publication where she asserted that the EVM is a standalone system, not programmable and has no wireless communication capabilities.  The BJP hit out at the opposition leaders over the issue and demanded that the Election Commission should prosecute all those who “amplified the lie” by sharing the news report.

Congress’ ally and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav also questioned the credibility of EVMs, demanding that all future elections be conducted using ballot papers.
But former Union minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar of the BJP countered Musk’s criticism of EVMs and said that the billionaire businessman’s view may apply to the US and other places where they use regular compute platforms to build “Internet-connected voting machines”.

Shiv Sena (UBT) leaders Aditya Thackeray and Priyanka Chaturvedi also shared the news report and demanded the release of the CCTV footage from counting day. They claimed this was a high-level fraud and criticized the Election Commission for inaction. They also alleged that the manipulated winner’s relative had a mobile phone capable of unlocking the EVM machine at the counting center.

Priyanka Chaturvedi said that if the Election Commission of India (ECI) doesn’t step in, this would be the biggest election result scam after the Chandigarh Mayor election and would end up in the courts. She emphasized that such brazenness must be punished.

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A news report claimed that the police were investigating how the accused got a phone that received an OTP to unlock the machine. Vandana Suryavanshi, the returning officer of the constituency, responded by saying that an OTP is not needed to unlock an EVM.

She clarified that the EVM is a standalone system with no wireless communication capabilities and is not programmable. Suryavanshi stated that they have issued a notice to ‘mid-day’ newspaper for defamation and spreading false news.

According to Vanrai police, Mangesh Pandilkar, the brother-in-law of Waikar, was booked for allegedly using a mobile phone at a counting center in Goregaon on June 4. Suryavanshi explained that the personal mobile phone of Dinesh Gurav, the data entry operator, was found in unauthorized hands, and action is being taken.

She added that data entry and vote counting are separate processes, and an OTP is only for the encore login system for data entry. The unauthorized use of a mobile phone is unrelated to the counting process and is being investigated.

Suryavanshi assured that advanced technical features and robust administrative safeguards are in place to prevent manipulation, including conducting everything in the presence of candidates or their agents.

She also mentioned that neither Waikar nor losing candidate Amol Kirtikar of Shiv Sena (UBT) had requested a recount, though verification of invalid postal ballots was done. She stated that CCTV footage could not be released without a court order.

BJP spokesperson Shehzad Poonawalla demanded action against opposition leaders who spread lies about the need for an OTP for EVMs. He cited the poll official’s clarification and pointed out that Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Chaturvedi had amplified the false claims.

Former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav criticized the BJP, questioning the insistence on using EVMs despite concerns about tampering. The opposition parties have been raising concerns over EVMs and had demanded a 100 percent count of the VVPAT slips, which was not allowed.

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