Guwahati, March 6: The Election Commission has directed Assam’s chief electoral officer Vijayendra not to entrust the Assam Electronics Development Corporation Ltd (Amtron) — an Assam government undertaking — any work related to electronic voting machines.
Commission secretary K.N. Bhar recently wrote a letter asking Vijayendra to engage only authorised engineers of Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL) in preparation of EVMs by returning officers. Assam will have three-phase parliamentary polls on April 7, 12 and 24.
“Clear instructions of the commission exist that only authorised engineers of BEL and ECIL will be involved in the first level checking (FLC) and preparation of EVMs by returning officers and others,” Bhar said in the letter.
The letter was written after some Assam MPs informed the poll panel on February 24 that Amtron had been entrusted with some EVM work in the state.
AGP general secretary Durga Das Boro said they had moved the commission since they suspected the ruling Congress might resort to EVM tampering during the upcoming elections.
After suffering a humiliating defeat in the 2011 Assembly polls, the AGP had blamed EVM tampering by the Congress for its worst-ever performance. The party had even filed a writ petition in Gauhati High Court seeking introduction of the voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) system to ensure free and fair elections.
This is the second instance after the commission had yesterday asked all ECIL-manufactured EVMs to be replaced by those manufactured by BEL.
“The commission’s instruction on the use of EVMs is hereby reiterated and it is further advised that only authorised engineers of ECIL will be involved in all work relating to EVMs. Their use in forthcoming elections and no employee of Amtron or of any other state undertaking/agency of Assam government will be involved with technical work relating to EVMs,” the letter said.
The chief electoral officer of Mizoram, Ashwani Kumar, told The Telegraph this evening that more than 1,700 EVMs, manufactured by BEL, will be used in the state for the Lok Sabha polls on April 9. The new EVMs have been brought from Maharashtra.
“ECIL-manufactured EVMs will be replaced by BEL machines on the direction of the commission after an election petition was filed in Gauhati High Court alleging the EVMs were tampered with. The case will come up for hearing on March 23,” Kumar said.
Sources said the replacement process does not suggest the poll panel has doubts about the machines. “The commission just wants the court to take a decision on the issue. The ECIL-manufactured EVMs for 23 of the 40 Assembly constituencies are in the safe custody of returning officers,” a source said.
The Congress had swept the Assembly polls in Mizoram last year.
Vijayendra today held a meeting with the representatives of political parties here today and sought their cooperation in the smooth conduct of polling in Assam. Representatives of the Congress, the AGP, the BJP, the AIUDF, CPM, among others, attended the meeting.