New Delhi | A former bureaucrat has raised concern with the Election Commission on the nomination of "at least" four persons allegedly having "affiliation with the BJP" as independent directors on the board of state-run BEL that manufactures EVMs, prompting opposition leaders to attack the government.
In a letter to the poll panel, former Union secretary E A S Sarma urged it to use its constitutional powers to ensure "party-affiliated" directors were removed from the board of Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL).
Electronics Corporation of India Ltd is the other PSU that manufactures electronic voting machines (EVMs).
Congress general secretary Randeep Surjewala and Shiv Sena (UBT) MP Priyanka Chaturvedi asked whether there will be free and fair elections when the office-bearers of the BJP are nominees as directors in BEL.
In a post on X, Surjewala asked the EC to come clean on the issue.
"If Bharat Electronics Limited, the company that manufactures EVM, has BJP office bearers and nominees as directors, are EVMs safe?
"Can there be free and fair elections. Who’ll protect the sanctity of elections? Why is ECI (Election Commission of India) silent? Speak up, save democracy," he said.
Chaturvedi also raised similar concerns."BEL is closely engaged in the manufacture and supply of the EVMs including the development of the 'secret' encrypted source code which is embedded in the chips that form the core of the EVMs.
"Did you know that BEL has up to 4 independent directors who are BJP nominees and some are BJP office bearers too," she said in a post on X.
She noted that the Companies Act mandates that an independent director should play a pivotal role in managing the affairs of the company.
"These are concerns raised by EAS Sarma to the Election Commission authority. It should concern the entire nation because the votes they register should be counted transparently and without chances of manipulation," she said.
How can one expect fairness if the level-playing field is skewed in favour of the ruling party and allows its nominees to participate in processes crucial to electoral outcomes, Chaturvedi said.
"It is a crying shame that ECI has continued to brazenly ignore these issues - whether it is VVPAT or BEL," the Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP said.
Trinamool Congress MP Jawhar Sircar also took to X to express apprehension on the issue.
In his January 26 letter, Sarma said, "Clearly, there is a conflict of interest in BEL having persons affiliated with the BJP as its independent directors, considering that the BEL's independence as a CPSE (central public sector enterprise) is of critical importance for it to be entrusted with the manufacture and supply of EVMs".
The opposition parties have been questioning the use of electronic voting machines with the INDIA last year submitting a memorandum to the poll panel.
The EC, however, expressed "full faith" in the use of the EVMs in the elections.