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Mumbai: Refuting allegations of EVM rigging, the returning officer of the Mumbai North-West LS constituency, Vandana Suryavanshi, said on Sunday, “there is no OTP (one time password) on mobile phones for unlocking EVM as it is non-programmable, and it has no wireless communication capabilities. It is a complete lie being spread which is being used by some leaders to create a false narrative. EVMs are standalone devices without any wired or wireless connectivity with units outside EVM system/ Advance technical features and robust administrative safeguards are in place to rule out any possibility of manipulation. Safeguards include conducting everything in the presence of candidates or their agents.”Suryavanshi also pointed out that the counting of electronically transmitted postal ballot systems (ETPBS) takes place in physical form (paper ballots) and not electronically, as suggested by the false narratives. She mentioned that a criminal case has been filed in response to the spread of misinformation. In his statement to Vanrai Police, Mangesh Pandilkar, a representative of independent candidate Lata Shinde, said he had borrowed the phone from Dinesh Gurav, the operator of the Election Commission’s Encore portal, claiming he needed to call his driver. He claimed that the phone was seized by police before he could make the call following a complaint by candidate Surinder Arora of the Bharat Jan Aadhar Party. Gurav was the one authorized to use the device for receiving OTPs for the Encore portal. A forensic examination of the phone will confirm if Pandilkar’s claims are true or whether he used the phone and for what purpose. A bureaucrat explained that Encore portal operators like Gurav are responsible for entering polling data at the end of each round on the portal. The operator receives an OTP on a registered cellphone, which they enter into the system to gain legal authorization to enter the polling data. The seized phone has been sent for forensic analysis to determine its purpose, calls made, and texts received. The bureaucrat noted that the phone may have received several OTPs whenever Gurav needed to upload data from his computer.The controversy has led to political reactions, with Congress’ Rahul Gandhi and Aditya Thackeray of Sena (UBT) expressing concern about the transparency of the electoral process. Chief minister Eknath Shinde, however, dismissed the allegations as baseless and attributed them to frustration over the Shiv Sena’s (Shinde faction) electoral success.The CM said the allegations in case of Waikar’s victory are to “mislead” people. “Our Shiv Sena has not only gained 2 lakh votes more in Mumbai and Maharashtra respectively than the UBT Sena but has also scored strike rate of 48% over their 42%.” According to Shinde, out of 19.50% votes to Shiv Sena, 14.50% are for the bow-arrow symbol and is a “clear indication that their traditional voter has shifted to us.” “This is the reason why they are feeling shattered and frustrated and making baseless allegations,” he said. (With inputs by Chittaranjan Tembhekar)

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