Ahead of the counting of votes on May 23, while political parties have stationed their workers outside strongrooms, maintaining a keen watch on the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), the Election Commission of India (ECI) has set up a 24-hour control room to act on complaints immediately.
Not just that, the SP-BSP-RLD mahagathbandhan in Uttar Pradesh's Meerut has equipped some of their party workers with binoculars to notice any suspicious movement around EVMs, The Times of India reported.
Congress workers sat outside EVM storerooms in Meerut and Raebareli, from where former party president Sonia Gandhi is seeking re-election. In Chandigarh, too, Congress workers have been keeping a vigil outside strongrooms since Monday, NDTV reported.
The EC had on Tuesday rubbished allegations that EVMs used in the Lok Sabha polls were being switched with fresh ones. Political parties conveyed their concern to the EC over the movement of voting machines in parts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Several videos showing EVMs being moved, some even in private vehicles, surfaced on social media.
"The complaints related to storage issues at strongrooms, security of strongrooms, permissions to candidates to post their agents at strongrooms, CCTV monitoring, movement of any EVMs, and any complaints during counting related to EVMs can be informed at control room, number is 011-23052123 (with 5 hunting lines)," the EC said in a statement.
On Tuesday, leaders of 22 political parties moved the commission and demanded transparency and fairness in the counting of votes on May 23.
TDP chief Chandrababu said the people’s mandate cannot be manipulated. “We are asking the Election Commission to respect the mandate of people. It cannot be manipulated,” he said.
They also demanded that if any discrepancy is found during VVPAT verification, 100 per cent counting of the paper slips of VVPATs of all polling stations of that particular Assembly segment should be done and compared with the electronic voting machine (EVM) results.
Referring to the allegations and complaints, the EC said it would like to "emphatically and unambiguously" clarify that all such reports and allegations are "absolutely false and factually incorrect."
The visuals on TV and social media "do not pertain to any EVMs used during the polls", it said.
In an earlier statement, the EC said, after the close of polls, all polled EVMs and VVPATs are brought under security cover to designated strongrooms, which are sealed with double locks in the presence of candidates and observers of the commission.
The entire process of storage and sealing of the strongroom is videoed.
"Continuous CCTV camera coverage is done till completion of counting. Each strongroom is guarded with round-the-clock security by Central Armed Police Forces.
Counting of votes for the Lok Sabha elections, in which over 8,000 candidates were in the fray for 542 seats, will begin at 8.00 am Thursday and results are expected only by late evening due to tallying of voter-verified paper audit trail slips with EVM count for the first time.
67.11 per cent of the 90.99 crore electors had cast their vote in the seven-phase elections. This is the highest ever voter turnout in Indian parliamentarian elections.
(With inputs from agencies)