The Election Commission (EC) has written to the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), protesting the presence in his delegation of a person who had been arrested in 2010 following an attempt to prove that EVMs can be tampered.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu had led the team to meet the poll panel on Saturday afternoon to express concerns over alleged malfunctioning of voting machines in the first phase of elections, among other things.
During the meeting, the Commission permitted TDP to send a few members of the delegation to meet Deputy Election Commissioner Sudeep Jain and Prof D T Sahani, chairman of the Technical Expert Committee (TEC), later in the day for a more detailed discussion on functioning of EVMs.
The evening meeting, however, was called off after the Commission objected to the presence of Hari K Prasad in the delegation. Prasad had managed to get an EVM in 2010 and demonstrated its supposed vulnerability to tampering in a video. He was later arrested on charges of stealing an EVM.
The EC then shot off a letter to the party's legal cell disapproving of Prasad's presence. "…this is completely intriguing as to how a so-called technical expert with these antecedents (the FIR against Prasad for stealing an EVM) was allowed to be a part of the delegation being led by Shri Nara Chandrababu Naidu, Hon'ble Chief Minister, Andhra Pradesh and President, TDP," stated the letter, a copy of which was marked to Principal Resident Commissioner of Andhra Pradesh in the national capital.
The Resident Commissioner was requested by the Commission to bring the contents of the letter to Naidu's notice immediately.
"Whatever may have been the eventual outcome of the investigation (of the FIR against Prasad), it would be appreciated that such antecedents do not inspire confidence," the letter stated, adding that Jain and Sahani are still open to meeting experts from the party, provided they do not have "similar antecedents in the matter".
Tweeting about the evening meeting with Jain and Sahani that was called off because of his presence in the TDP delegation, Prasad stated, "Felt really insulted when they say I am an accused in EVM case while the whole world know why I showed EVM hack on TV and subsequently been honored by international community 'EFF' with their prestigious Pioneer award of 2010. Its time to fight back for Democracy again."
Late in the night, the TDP responded to the EC's letter stating that no chargesheet was filed against Prasad even nine years after the FIR was filed, and that the Commission was using his presence to avoid addressing the real issues.
Earlier in the day, when Naidu met Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora and Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra, he alleged that the EC was not performing its duty "with objectivity, impartiality and professionalism".
He also claimed that the Commission showed undue haste and alacrity in acting on frivolous complaints made by YSR Congress Party, and unjustly transferred Chief Secretary Anil Chandra Punetha, District Collector of Srikakulam, and three IPS officers, including the AP intelligence chief. Naidu also demanded a return to poll by ballot papers.
The Commission is learnt to have told Naidu that the Chief Secretary was removed for failing to comply with its orders. On malfunctioning of EVMs and his demand for return to ballot paper, the EC told Naidu that data shows that only 1.75 per cent of the EVMs were replaced during polls in the state.