The Election Commission (EC) on 29 September had declared the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) along with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) in all the 50,128 voting booths in Gujarat during the elections to be held on 9 and 14 December.

However, during the regular First Level Checks (FLCs) conducted across the state by the EC, about 3,550 VVPAT machines were found to be defective and hence rejected by the EC.

During an official briefing to the mediapersons, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) BB Swain had said, “The defective pieces will be sent back to the factory. There are some with minor defects and can be repaired.”

The issue that is now developing into a major firing tool in the hands of the opposition parties is these very defective VVPAT machines. The first shot was fired by Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader Hardik Patel, who in a tweet on Friday in Hindi said, “Over 3,550 VVPAT machines failed in the first level test of the Election Commission and I can say with confidence that the BJP will indulge in fraud in Gujarat elections.”

In another development, the Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) survey conducted by the Election Commission of India (ECI) in Gujarat has revealed that 87% of EC survey respondents were unaware of VVPAT. The survey conducted in 49 assembly constituencies covered five regions of Kutch, North Gujarat, Central Gujarat, Saurashtra, and South Gujarat.