Kendrapara: A day after the conclusion of Patkura election, the focus has now shifted to the security of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and VVPATs amid tension over allegations of opening of a VVPAT machine last night at the strong room set up in Kendrapara Autonomous College.

Anticipating any untoward incident following election, even though the administration has put the strong room under three-tier security and round-the-clock CCTV surveillance, speculations over the safety of the EVMs and VVPATs are yet to subside.

The district administration as per the Election Commission of India (ECI) guidelines called a meeting of agents of all political parties to apprise them of security measures put in place at the strong room.

Briefing on the security measures taken at the strong room, Kendrapara SP Niti Sekhar said, “Three-layer security arrangement has been made along with round-the-clock CCTV surveillance while agents of different parties are monitoring the situation.”

Returning Officer of Patkura, Jyoti Prakash Mohapatra said, "Usually a day after the poll, a meeting of agents from different political parties is conducted. So today, discussions on several issues concerning safety and security of the machines were held in presence of ECI poll observer and agents of parties.”

Meanwhile, accusing the ruling-BJD of EVM tampering, BJP today slammed the State government and said it would move the ECI to probe the allegations. BJP general secretary Lekhashree Samantsinghar leveled allegations of rigging at booth number 220 in Dhahalpur and booth number 294 in Patkura. Besides, she raised concerns over 100 reserve EVMs kept by the district administration.

“When 309 EVMs and equal number of vehicles were present for 309 booths in Patkura, why there was a need for reserve of additional 100 EVMs and additional vehicles during the polls. We suspect that efforts were made to manipulate EVMs or replace them as per the direction of the ruling party. We demand that the ECI should take a strong note of it,” said Samantsinghar.

BJP candidate Bijoy Mohapatra also visited Kendrapara College today to take stock of the situation.
“Even if the administration has assured that EVMs and VVPATs are safe under the security cover of paramilitary forces, some deviations were seen at some places. During the Patkura poll, people from outside came to the constituency. In connection with this, I have requested the ECI poll observer to probe the matter,” said Mohapatra.

Refuting the charges BJD MLA Sashi Bhushan Behera however said the saffron party is leveling such charges as they fear losing the poll.

“After losing the election, parties usually allege that power and money were used to win. However, this time before the poll result is out, they (BJP) are making such statements which shows that they know they will lose the election,” Behera added.

Congress candidate for Patkura, Jayant Mohanty said, “I have not seen utilization of money to such an extent during any election but my party cannot match with the BJD and the BJP."

The counting of votes and declaration of result are scheduled to be held on July 24.

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