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'EC, Varanasi Officials Tampering With EVMs': Akhilesh Yadav Ahead of Result Day

Yadav alleged that the Varanasi district magistrate was transporting EVMs without informing the local candidates.

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Edited By :Tejas Harad

A day after the exit polls predicted a loss for the Samajwadi Party (SP) in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections 2022, party chief Akhilesh Yadav on Tuesday, 8 March, alleged that the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in Varanasi were being tampered with to manipulate poll results.

"The news of EVM being caught in Varanasi is giving a message to every assembly of UP to be alert. All the candidates and supporters of SP-alliance should be ready with their cameras to thwart the attempt of rigging in the counting of votes. To protect youth democracy and future, become soldiers in counting of votes."
Akhilesh Yadav

Addressing a press conference, Yadav alleged that the Varanasi district magistrate was transporting EVMs without informing the local candidates, urging the Election Commission to look into it.

This comes after a video surfaced which appeared to show officials carrying EVMs as a crowd gathers and confronts them.

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"Exit polls want to create a perception that BJP is winning. This is the last fight for democracy. EVM is being transported without being informed to candidates," Yadav was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

"Samajwadi Party is winning Ayodhya, that is why BJP is scared. Election Commission officials are tampering with EVMs," he claimed.

"We need to be alert if EVMs are being transported this way. This is theft. We need to save our votes. We may go to court against it but before that, I want to appeal to people to save the democracy," he added.

The SP president's allegations come less than 48 hours before the counting of votes in the crucial UP polls. The counting will begin as scheduled on Thursday, 8 am.

Soon after Yadav's allegations, Samajwadi Party workers staged a protest outside an EVM strong room in Varanasi's Pahariya Mandi area, reported ANI.

Furthermore, state president of the SP, Naresh Uttam Patel, has written a letter to the Chief Election Commissioner complaining that there was excessive misuse of mobile phones around the polling booths in all districts of the state and any kind of hacking was possible.

The SP has demanded mobile jammers to be installed near all polling booths in the state, so that independent, fair, and fearless elections can be conducted.

Meanwhile, Om Prakash Rajbhar, president of the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party, called for the removal of the commissioner and the DM for transporting the EVMs that, he alleged, were used during the polls.

He said, "Three cars left the strongroom with the EVMs covered with gunny bags. Two of the cars fled but we managed to capture one car. According to the election guidelines, any EVM leaving the strongroom must be notified to the candidates and the district magistrate. We have complained about the incident. The counting of the votes will never be accurate until the Commissioner and the DM are removed."

'Impossible To Take Away EVMs Used in Voting'

The Samajwadi Party on Wednesday, 9 March, tweeted a video of Varanasi commissioner Deepak Agarwal admitting that there were lapses in the movement of the EVMs. However, he insisted that the EVMs in the cars were used only for "training purposes."

Agarwal said, "If you talk about the protocol for the movement of EVMs, there was a lapse in the protocol, I accept that. But I can guarantee you, it is impossible to take away machines used in voting."

He said that there were CCTV cameras, security guards, and political party representatives at counting centres. "Political party workers can even sit outside the centres to keep an eye," he said.

The SP tweeted the video saying, "EVM tampering is being received in many districts. At whose behest is this happening? Are the officers being pressurized from the CM Office?"

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What Did the Varanasi DM Say?

As videos of EVMs being transported were shared on social media, District Election Officer and District Magistrate Kaushalraj Sharma denied that they were the ones used for voting.

Sharma said that for training, the EVMs were being taken to a local college from a separate food godown located in the mandi. Some people with political affiliations stopped the vehicle and spread rumours that the EVM in the car was an EVM used during the election, he said.

"All officers came here, they tried to explain to them, but due to the crowd now all candidates and chiefs of political parties have been informed for their satisfaction that the EVMs that were being taken, were for training purposes only," the Varanasi DM said, according to ANI.

He said, "We’re giving a hard copy of the list of the machines used during elections which can be cross-checked with the numbers on the back of the 20 EVMs in the car. These machines are not the same ones that went to polls that day."

Regarding counting day, we’ve decided that we will do that without the EVMs.

Wednesday is the second training day of the employees engaged in counting duty and these machines are always used for hands-on training, he added.

The district magistrate also made it clear that all the EVMs used in the voting are sealed in the possession of CRPF in a strong room. He also added that it has CCTV surveillance, which is being watched by people from all political parties.

"There's a strong room here. Polled EVMs are kept there, barricading done, there is no reason to breach the barricading. There are other strong rooms and godowns for other EVMs (meant for training). Both sets of EVMs are not connected to each other, it's being clarified," he added.

The district magistrate also held a meeting with representatives of several parties after Yadav's claims.

DK Thakur, Police Commissioner, Lucknow, said that security has been beefed up in EVM strong room ahead of the counting day, according to ANI. He said, "We've adequate security measures in place at EVM strong room. Strong room will be opened around 7 am in the presence of election observers and candidates. Counting will begin at 8 am tomorrow (Thursday). Police patrolling will be done in sensitive areas."

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How Have Other Leaders Reacted?

UP Law Minister Brajesh Pathak said that this was a repeated claim from SP.

"I don't want to comment on Samajwadi Party, such reaction comes from them often, it doesn't matter. BJP will come to power on 10 March, crossing 300 seats. Samajwadi Party will never accept it as UP public has seen and refuted their hooliganism," he said, according to ANI.

Reacting to the allegations, Union Minister Anurag Thakur said, "Akhilesh ji has understood during polls that people are not taking SP seriously. 'Jail-bail' people were on SP's first list."

He added that Yadav was expected to make these allegations on 10 March but had not even waited that long.

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What Do Exit Polls Predict?

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is likely to retain power in Uttar Pradesh with a comfortable margin, exit polls results released on Monday predicted.

As per the Times Now-Veto exit polls, the BJP is slated to win 225 seats and retain power in UP, despite garnering 100 less seats than what it won in 2017. The ABP-CVoter has projected 228-244 seats for the BJP, while Zee News-DesignBoxed has predicted 223-248 seats for the saffron party.

Meanwhile, India Today-Axis My India, as well as News24-Today's Chanakya have predicted a sweep for the incumbent BJP and its allies in Uttar Pradesh.

(With inputs from ANI.)

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