Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief Arvind Kejriwal will be a disappointed man. As someone who has first called for total abolition of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and then the use of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines in the MCD elections, he will be rankled by the fact that the Election Commission (EC) announced the acquisition of VVPAT machines just days before the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections.
Kejriwal was among the first few political leaders, after the Assembly elections in five states earlier this year, who had made the claim that EVMs had been tampered with — or even hacked — to give the BJP an unfair advatage. Even back then he had called for the MCD elections to be held without EVMs.
He later climbed down from his stand, agreeing for EVMs to be used for the elections on Sunday, April 23, but on condition that they be accompanied by VVPATs. However, when he approached the Delhi High Court with this demand, the court threw it out. Then, even as polling was being conducted on Sunday, it came to light that the EC had issued a letter of intent on April 21 to buy 16.15 lakh VVPAT machines at a cost of Rs 3,173.47 crore during 2017-18 and 2018-19.
The letter, to the chairmen and managing directors of Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) and the Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL), says the EC will buy equal amounts of VVPAT machines from each public-sector undertaking (PSU).
"These VVPATs shall be manufactured by both PSUs only as per the design approved by the commission based on recommendation of the Technical Experts Committee on Electronic Voting Machines constituted by the commission and comprising eminent technical professors from Indian Institute of Technology (IITs)," the letter says.
It adds: "This will enhance transparency and uphold the voters' right to know which party he or she has voted, thereby increasing voters' confidence in the free and fair electoral process."
The move comes just days after the Union Cabinet approved the proposal as well as the sum with which to buy the VVPAT machines.