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Kasaragod controversy: The News Minute and others lie about EVMs favouring BJP, Prashant Bhushan repeats it in SC, Election Commission debunks claims

"These news reports are false. We have verified the allegation from the district collector and it appears that they are false.," Senior Deputy Election Commissioner Nitesh Kumar Vyas said.

Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, attempts are being made to discredit the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and create a sense of panic among the voters. One such attempt was made in Kasaragod town in Kerala, where Congress and CPIM exploited a technical glitch during a mock poll to suggest that EVMs were favouring the BJP.

On Wednesday (17th April), Onmanorama published a contentious report (archive) wherein it alleged that four Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) erroneously registered votes in favour of the BJP during a mock poll in Kasaragod town in Kerala.

The outrageous claims were initially made by CPIM leader M V Balakrishnan and the agent of Congress candidate Rajmohan Unnithan, identified as Nasar Cherkalam, to the Election Commission of India (ECI). They had also sought the replacement of the ‘erring’ voting machines

Screengrab of the report by Onmanorama

“Nasar Cherkalam said the BJP’s lotus was getting extra votes during the commissioning of the machines for the polling stations in Kasaragod Assembly Constituency. He also pointed out that the Congress’s ‘hand’ symbol was smaller than other symbols on the voting machines and asked the officials to change it,” the report by Onmranorama read.

The agent of Congress candidate Rajmohan Unnithan alleged that the VVPAT units attached to four EVM machines gave vote to the BJP even though the party’s lotus symbol was not pressed.

“The officials tested 20 machines at a time. When all 10 options on the EVMs were pressed one time each, the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) gave two votes to the BJP in four machines. When the BJP’s lotus was not pressed, the same four erroneous VVPAT units gave one vote to the party, said Nasar Cherkalam,” the report claimed. 

Nasar Cherkalam cast aspersions on the integrity of the voting machines and inquired why the EVMs did not erroneously favour the CPIM or the Congress party during the mock trial. The report also highlighted how 6 machines out of 228 had technical glitches.

Supreme Court directs Election Commission

Advocate turned conspiracy theorist, Prashant Bhushan, cited the Onmanorama report in the Supreme Court on Thursday (18th April) during the hearing of the ongoing EVM-VVPAT case, seeking 100% verification of the VVPAT slips.

“There was a mock poll in Kasaragod, Kerala. 4 EVMs and VVPATs were recording one extra vote for BJP. Manorama carried this report,” Prashant Bhushan told the apex court.

This prompted the Supreme Court to direct the Election Commission to investigate the matter. A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta said, “Mr. Maninder Singh (ECI Counsel), please crosscheck it,” 

The News Minute joins the ‘conspiracy circus’

In the meantime, leftist propaganda outlet The News Minute published a report (archive) reiterating the claims made by the Onmanorama report about EVMs erroneously returning votes for the BJP.

“Three VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) machines printed one extra slip each with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s lotus symbol during a mock poll in Kerala’s Kasaragod on Wednesday, April 17,” the report alleged.

The report further claimed, “The machines had the BJP symbol as the topmost option. During the second round of mock poll too, the same three faulty VVPAT machines once again printed an extra slip with the lotus symbol. The issue was only rectified during the third round…”

The News Minute went on to cite the Congress and CPIM leader to insinuate that EVMs are not full-proof and have somehow been tampered with by the ruling BJP government at the Centre.

The Editor-in-Chief of the leftist propaganda outlet, Dhanya Rajendran, also tweeted the story from her official X (formerly Twitter) handle.

Clarification issued by the Election Commission

On Thursday (18th April) afternoon, the Election Commission rubbished the claims floated by Onmanorama news and The News Minute about EVMs favouring one political party.

“These news reports are false. We have verified the allegation from the district collector and it appears that they are false. We will submit a detailed report to the court…” Senior Deputy Election Commissioner Nitesh Kumar Vyas was quoted as saying.

Counsel for Election Commission, Maninder Singh told the apex court that more than 118 crore people have cast their votes since the introduction of VVPATs in India. During this time, 4 crore VVPAT slips were counted and only 25 complaints were received by the Commission, which turned out to be false.

In a statement released on X, the Chief Electoral Officer Sanjay Kaul in Kerala emphasised, “Confusion was caused when it was alleged that during the mock poll conducted as part of the commissioning in Kasaragod constituency, additional VVPAT slips came out.”

“The fact is that at the time of printing of test ballot slips after symbol loading, some machines were taken to the commissioning table without having taken the full print of VVPAT test slips. When the machine is restarted at the next commissioning table, the symbol of the first candidate was printed along with a standardization slip/first diagnostic slip which was supposed to be printed in the previous session,” he pointed out.

He highlighted that all EVMs used in the Lok Sabha elections in the state are error-free and safe.

In the meantime, Bharat Electronics Ltd, which manufactures EVMs said, “The incomplete symbol loading which had happened in four VVPATs in Kasaragod could have occurred due to disconnection of the cable or by moving the VVPATs to the next stage before completion of prints.”

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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