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When rejected by people, they reject EVMs
The sudden clamour, questioning the functioning of electronic voting machines (EVMs), has come as a result of massive defeats that various political parties and their leaders have suffered in elections held recently across the country. The more-often-than-not belated discovery of EVMs being rigged is just an elucidation of the major electoral drubbing they have suffered at national and State-level politics. The two, therefore, are not unconnected. The losers, unable to reconcile to the defeats, are now crying foul. Instead of accepting the fact that their poll promises were rejected by the people and taking lessons from the same, they have found solace by blaming technology that was supposedly manipulated against them.
The EVMs were first used in the Lok Sabha poll in 2004, and in Assembly elections even before that — in 1998. It came as a voter-satisfactory device, which could prevent ballot-stuffing and booth-capturing, and also reduce manpower. Levels of violence, unusual low voter-turnouts and electoral frauds — all saw a steep decline with the introduction of EVMs. Yet, barring a small section of politicians that has vociferously questioned the efficacy and credibility of this electronic device, EVMs were never a problem for anybody.
This, because, ever since their introduction, the EVMs have seen subsequent reforms: From generation-one machines which have now been discarded, to generation-two and generation-three machines that are currently in use. The latter two generations employ sophisticated encryption technology to handle data. Whatever issues were raised regarding their functioning, were addressed by the Election Commission of India (ECI). Subsequent mechanical and electronic measures were taken to prevent tampering of the EVMs, which were also given the requisite legal backing duly endorsed by the judiciary, for use.
So, have the machines suddenly become fallible? Apparently, none of the leaders had problems with the EVMs during the 2014 Delhi Assembly election or for that matter during the 2015 Bihar Assembly election, where the BJP was not victorious. In Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) won the State with a majestic majority of 67 of the 70 seats. By the same logic, a hue and cry should have been raised then also, as it was a clean sweep by the now critics of EVM tampering?
In the times of massive mandate one way or the other, how come Arvind Kejriwal never found anything amiss earlier? If the EVMs were tinkered, why did the BJP not get a clear majority in Manipur and Goa too? According to Kejriwal’s logic, it may also be concluded that the EVMs were doctored in Punjab in the Congress’s favour. If only had he focused on governance and less on petty politics he would never have felt the need to take refuge in cooking up anti-EVM excuses.
Not surprisingly, despite a well-orchestrated and coordinated effort by certain non-BJP parties to discredit the EVMs, not all party members are comfortable with the condemnation of the EVMs. As the Congress’s Veerappa Moily pointed out, it would not be a progressive step to go back to the possibility of ink thrown in ballot boxes, ballot-stuffing and many invalid votes in which it is impossible to figure out which candidate’s name has been stamped. Punjab Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Amarinder Singh too questioned his party’s stand on the EVM, and asked his leaders and Kejriwal to approach the ECI to prove their charge that the polling machines can be tampered with. Talking about his own electoral win in Punjab, Captain Singh said he wouldn’t have won in Punjab if EVMs had been tampered with. Even representatives from the Janata Dal (United), after the 2017 Uttar Pradesh election, came out in support of the EVMs and rubbished arguments against it.
What is baffling is the politicians’ reluctance to accept the poll panel’s open challenge to parties and experts who have raised doubts about the fairness of the just conducted Assembly elections, to come and hack the EVMs. Their reluctance to accept the challenge has exposed their real intentions. Most funnily, IITian technocrat Arvind Kejriwal claims to know of more than 10 ways to tamper with the EVMs. But alas, he has not yet demonstrated even a single one of them. Discarding technology is not the solution but enhancing technology must be the case. Returning to the past system and its many flaws is would be a dangerous option.
Of course, there has to be a back-up to the EVMs. To that extent, the election Commission of India’s thrust to incorporate voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) is laudable. The Union Cabinet has cleared the poll panel’s request for over Rs 3,000 crore to set up the VVPAT system along with the EVMs in all polling booths across the country in time for the 2019 Lok Sabha election. This should silence the people who are needlessly beating the political conspiracy drum, the sounds of which most people don’t wish to hear.
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