The Election Commission will replace over nine lakh Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) with advanced M3 machines before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the government has informed Parliament. These machines will become inoperable the moment someone attempts to tamper with them. The new EVMs are likely to be introduced by the end of 2018.
The move comes in the wake of allegations of EVM-tampering by several political leaders in the February-March assembly polls. While the M3 EVMs are technologically advanced, there is no operational difference between these and other EVMs and they do not affect booth-management system, Minister of State for Law and Justice P.P. Chaudhary told the Lok Sabha in a written reply earlier this week.
The minister said the Election Commission has decided to replace 9,30,430 EVMs purchased before 2006 in a phased manner before the General Election and simultaneous assembly polls in 2019. Listing the features of the new M3 EVMs, the Minister said it has a Public Key Interface (PKI)-based mutual authentication between various EVM units for identifying a genuine unit, of authorised manufacturer, in the field to ensure that only genuine EVMs can be used for communication within the network.
“Its design ensures that the EVMs become inoperable the moment an attempt is made to physically open the EVMs,” the Minister said. As per the Election Commission, approximately Rs 1,940 crore, excluding taxes, duties and freight charges, will be required for procurement of the said machines.
In another reply, in the Rajya Sabha last week, Chaudhary said the poll panel has informed the government that “they have not procured any electronic voting machine during 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17”. Soon after the results of Uttar Pradesh assembly polls were declared, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati alleged that the EVMs had been “managed” to favour the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Other opposition parties, including the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party, sought a probe by the Election Commission after a report about EVM-tampering emanated from an assembly constituency in a bypoll in Madhya Pradesh. On Saturday, the Congress wrote to the Election Commission, saying the poll panel should revert back to use of paper ballot if political parties are not convinced about the credibility of EVMs.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also urged the ECI on Saturday to investigate cases of faulty EVMs to ascertain if they were tampered to favour the BJP in the assembly elections in Manipur, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Punjab.