Guwahati, Oct. 12: An improved version of the electronic voting machine (EVM) the features of which will help poll personnel overcome operating inconveniences and instil confidence among the candidates and their representatives will be used in the Assam Assembly elections next year.
Assam chief electoral officer Hemanta Narzary said election officials had been exposed to the new improved EVMs at a daylong training camp last week.
The development comes amid growing apprehension among Opposition parties such as the AGP and the AIUDF that the EVMs can be tampered with and are a threat to democracy. These parties had asked the Election Commission on October 4 to revert to the good old ballot boxes.
The daylong training suggests that the Election Commission will stick to the EVMs but will endeavour to make administrative measures and the gadgets foolproof to address the concerns of the political parties.
Details gathered by The Telegraph revealed that the new EVMs could record the timing of the first and last votes cast.
The new gadgets will also display an in-built control unit number on the screen so that it can be tallied with the one that comes with the machine.
The EVMs also come with improved cable connection between the ballot unit and the control unit and a power saver, which ensures that the machines go into sleep mode when not in use.
The first two features will further allay apprehension in certain quarters that the machines can be tampered with while the second two may appear very minor but are of great help to those associated with the polling exercise, like the presiding officer. The new and upgraded EVMs are definitely safer and better to handle than the ones used earlier, a source claimed.
There are 23,813 polling centres in Assam, requiring an equal amount of EVMs plus an additional 10 per cent as back-up if any of these machines go bust.
Electronic Corporation of India Ltd, Hyderabad, manufactures the EVMs for Assam.
The AGP and AIUDF, however, reiterated their reservations when informed about the upgraded EVMs.
We will stick to our stand of returning to ballot boxes. We are not in favour of the EVMs, AGP vice-president Apurba Bhattacharjjee said.
Aminul Islam, who attended the October 4 meeting convened by the Election Commission, expressed similar views.
Most of the regional parties were against the use of EVMs, he added.
The Election Commission, in a news conference after the meeting, said there was consensus among political parties for the continued use of EVMs after the latter were explained the technical and administrative safeguards involving placement of officials and party representatives put in place by the poll panel with respect to EVMs.