In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi four months ago, the Election Commission sought urgent release of funds to procure enough Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines to cover all polling stations ahead of the next Lok Sabha elections in 2019. The EC has sent over 10 reminders to the government on the matter, since June 2014, and the letter to Modi by Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi, on October 25, 2016, was an SOS of sorts. The CEC very rarely writes directly to the PM, with its communication to the government on electoral matters normally limited to Law and Home ministries. Several parties, including the BSP, Samajwadi Party and Aam Aadmi Party, have raised doubts about tampering of EVMs following the Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand results. Before the 2014 general elections, the BJP had talked of EVM tampering on many occasions.
VVPAT machines produce a printout of the vote cast using an EVM, which can be shown to the voter to dispel any doubts. This printout is then deposited in a box and can be used to resolve any dispute regarding the election. In 2013, the Supreme Court had ordered the EC to implement the VVPAT system in a phased manner, and the commission had committed to have it in place by the time of the 2019 general elections.
The EC has been writing to the Law Ministry (its parent ministry) for funds to purchase approximately 16 lakh VVPATs, for which it needs Rs 3,100 crore.
In his letter to Modi, Zaidi wrote, “I’m writing to draw your kind attention to the crisis that may occur during the next General Election to Lok Sabha in 2019, if required numbers of replacement Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and new Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) are not produced in time by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL), the two defence PSUs.”