Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee (HPCC) President Virbhadra Singh, in a letter written to Chief Election Commissioner of India (CEC) expressed concern about the safety of the EVM machines stored all over the state for over a period of nearly seven weeks.

In his letter, he said that although Election Commission has made elaborate arrangements to keep the EVMs safe, yet these arrangements are not satisfied to ensure proper security and safety of EVM. There are strong apprehensions of fuel play by the BJP, Keeping in view the level of violation of Model Code of Conduct by the BJP, Singh feared.

Singh stated that this seven week long period has virtually turned into period of continuous anxiety and tension for the candidates other than those of the ruling party, fearing as they do some mischief on the part of the ruling party. This long waiting period has helped fuel the controversies relating to the use of EVMs that have appeared in the Press from time to time. Not the legal or the constitutional debate but the software and hardware vulnerabilities of the EVMs.

He also expressed his unhappiness over the use of official vehicles, beacon lights, flags etc by the ministers and other political dignitaries belonging to BJP while model code of conducts is enforced in the state. Singh also expressed serious concern Chief Minister and Ministers are frequently visiting ‘melas’ and other function as Chief Guest in utter violation of code of conduct. He has asked the CEC to issue immediate instructions to the state government to stop misuse of official position and machinery.

Virbhadra Singh said in the letter that the EVM storage warehouse must not have more than one entry point. If there are any other doors or windows in the warehouse, they should be sealed using brick-masonry or concrete. The underlying reason is the suspicion sometimes voiced even in the Press that the Indian EVMs are vulnerable to fraud if they became accessible to criminals even momentarily.

He said that these fears are further fuelled by the immoral and unscrupulous conduct of the BJP Government preceding the Elections. Massive recruitments were undertaken just before the elections.

Hundreds of large misleading advertisements extolling the alleged achievements of the Government were issued at the expense of the public exchequer spending crores of rupees. Excess expenditures over the budget provisions were incurred for which no provisions existed, to reap political dividends. This fuels the fears that the BJP Government would certainly try to play mischief with the EVMs. Many of the Returning officers close to the power are in no position to inspire confidence among the candidates of parties other than the ruling party.

Virbhadra Singh said though the initiative taken by the Election Commission of India (ECI) for the protection of electronic voting machines by deploying ITBP is welcome, these need to be further reinforced to assure the candidates that the integrity and the sanctity of the EVMs will be fully protected by taking steps more than preparing registers, putting jointly operated locks and issuance of certificates by officials and that all officials involved in the protection of EVMs discharge their assigned duties scrupulously.

Given the seven week long interval between the polling and the counting, frequent and surprise visits by the officials of the Election Commission of India to the state overseeing the arrangements of the security of EVMs along and in the presence of the candidates and their representatives will go a long way in restoring confidence among candidates other than those of the ruling party, who are indeed a greatly worried lot.

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