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The Election Commission's Open Challenge for political parties to prove the alleged rigging of electronic voting machines (EVMs) went unanswered on Saturday, with nobody coming forward to demonstrate how they can be manipulated.
While representatives of two political parties - the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) - turned up at the event, they left after making technical enquiries on how EVMs function.
The poll panel said it hoped the controversy would die down, now that Opposition parties have not succeeded in coming up with any evidence of EVM tampering.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) refused to accept the poll panel's challenge, with party chief spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj dubbing it as "mere eyewash". It instead decided to conduct a parallel EVM tampering challenge, for which the registration process has already been launched on the party website. No date has been fixed for the event yet.
"AAP will conduct a parallel hackathon/demonstration of its own EVM prototype under the same conditions proposed by the Election Commission - only visual inspection and pressing of keys will be allowed. No other hardware or software manipulation will be allowed," said Bhardwaj.
Though the poll panel claimed that both the NCP and CPI-M were "satisfied" with the demonstration, representatives of the Sharad Pawar-led party said they still harbour doubts.
The CPI-M, however, told  that it was convinced by the exercise. "We held an hour-long discussion with technical experts of the poll panel," said Bappa Aditya Sinha, an IT professional representing the party. "We had already said we were attending the event only for academic purposes."
The NCP's Vandana Chavan said while the poll panel's announcement that all future elections would be held through VVPAT or paper trail machines has come as a "big relief", doubts about EVMs remain.
"We knew it would not be possible to tamper with the machines in four hours. We were not provided details and serial numbers of the ballot and control units, which were needed for taking up the challenge. We also wanted to know if the people who burnt the programme into the EVM chip were above suspicion. The challenge is not to confront the poll panel but to ensure a fair democratic process," the Rajya Sabha member added.
Chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi said the poll panel has offered the NCP another opportunity to take up the EVM challenge or study it as an academic exercise.
"Our technical team treated them to a detailed demonstration of the entire process. They sought an interaction with our technical experts, and after expressing complete satisfaction, suggested that the commission proactively hold demonstrations and awareness sessions with the technical community to allay doubts like these in the future," he added.
Zaidi said the poll panel could not provide the NCP with the EVMs' memory (card) and battery numbers because the machines were sealed. "We told them that the party can access these numbers at the time of the challenge by opening the machines."
The NCP and the poll panel also had a disagreement over the voting machines chosen for the challenge. The party representatives, in a letter, objected to the last-minute change in the EVM selection protocol by asking them to pick one from a list of 14 machines.

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