New Delhi, April 12: The Election Commission today invited scientists, engineers and political parties to try and hack electronic voting machines, confident that they were tamper-proof and hoping for a repeat of 2009 when none could crack the code at a similar open challenge.
The commission's move followed a slew of complaints from across the country that votes polled for all parties were landing in the BJP's kitty.
As the complaints gained currency, they triggered a united front of parties - all of them against the use of EVMs without a paper trail.
While details are being worked out, commission officials confirmed the "open challenge" would be held in the first week of May.
The debate on whether EVMs could be manipulated or not had in August 2009 prompted the EC to take what it said was the "extraordinary measure" of inviting sceptics to tamper with any one of 100 machines made available to them.
The outcome of the exercise, the commission had said, was that none of the persons who were given the opportunity could demonstrate "any tamperability of the EVM in any of the 100 machines on display".
"They either failed or chose not to demonstrate," the commission said.
It was, ironically, the BJP that had fired the first salvo against EVMs following the party's defeat in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. Last month, however, as the Uttar Pradesh results unfolded, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati told a news conference: "It seems EVMs did not accept votes polled for any party other than the BJP."
Earlier this week, the Congress led a delegation of 17 opposition parties to mount pressure on the poll panel to review its stand that EVMs cannot be manipulated.
While some parties are now demanding a return to paper ballots, much of the clamour among the others is to mount pressure on the government to implement the Supreme Court's 2013 order to provide a paper trail to each and every EVM used in the country.
According to the commission, Rs 3,100 crore is needed to acquire 15.5 lakh voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines, basically printer-like devices that generate receipts when votes are cast. The commission has around 55,000 VVPAT machines now.
Since May 2014, the commission has written a dozen letters to the law ministry, while the chief election commissioner has even sent an SOS letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention for early release of funds to acquire VVPAT machines, but in vain.
The Commission is facing two contempt notices for not implementing the Supreme Court's order on VVPAT machines.