At least 200 slips of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines were found in a government school premises in Atmakur town of Andhra Pradesh’s Nellore district on Monday, triggering panic among district officials.
The incident came to light at a time when Telugu Desam Party president and Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu has flagged the authenticity of electronic voting machines and demanded counting of slips from at least 50 per cent of VVPAT machines.
Some students who found the VVPAT machine slips in a few covers in a classroom brought it to the notice of local scribes, who immediately alerted Nellore collector Muthyala Raju.
The collector told them that they could be dummy slips recovered from VVPATS while randomizing the EVMs and VVPATS before allotting them to the polling stations.
He, however, sent a team of officials led by local Revenue Divisional Officer Chinna Ramudu to the school to ascertain the facts.
The officials, who went through the VVPAT machine slips, came to the conclusion that they were part of the test-run of EVMs much before the polling day. They immediately destroyed them by setting them in fire.
Ramudu denied the reports of any malpractices in the VVPAT machines. “There is no truth in the reports that a large number of VVPAT machine slips were found at the school. They are insignificant,” he said.
He, however, told local reporters that the slips were obtained while conducting the drills for polling staff much before the day of voting. As per the protocol, they should be destroyed immediately but due to negligence of the staff, some slips were left in the school, he said.
Speaking to media in the afternoon, Naidu accused the Election Commission of submitting a wrong affidavit in the Supreme Court saying it would take six days to count the slips from VVPAT machines.
“We are suspecting that there is a huge discrepancy between the records of EVMs and VVPAT machines. Why should EC have any objection to counting of slips from 50 per cent of VVPAT machines?
Why are they attributing motives to me when I am asking for more transparency in elections?” Naidu asked, and declared that he would start a nation-wide debate on the authenticity of EVMs.