1st letter photo

Officials prepare electronic voting machines as counting for the Punjab assembly election begins in Amritsar, March 11, 2017. Members of the AAM and BSP parties have alleged there was tampering with the EVMs, and are asking for an investigation. (IANS photo)

It is becoming clear that India is not yet ready for electronic voting machines. Even if there is a remote chance that the machines can be tampered with, I am sure that somebody will find the way. Deprivation and inefficient bureaucracy has made us very innovative. We can always find a way around legal and bureaucratic hurdles. If we cannot do it ourselves, there are experts who will get our work done so long as we are willing to pay the price. Therefore, even if there is a one in a million chance that the EVMs can be tampered with, it is very likely that somebody is going to do it.

It seems that the opposition parties are united on one thing: the EVMs can be tampered with and probably were tampered with in the UP elections. The government is adamant that the EVMs were not tampered with and that the opposition is acting like a sore loser.

I feel that we should go back to the ballot paper for two reasons. First, the issue has been raised to the extent that it is almost impossible to deny or suppress the concern that the EVMs are not free from being tampered with. Second, there is enough circumstantial evidence to make a case for switching to the ballot paper. At least on one occasion, an Election Commission official was shown that if you press any button on the machine, it would record that vote for the BJP.

The BJP did not give a single ticket to a Muslim candidate. However, it has still won in the constituencies in which there is a big Muslim vote, and it was almost impossible to win that seat without the Muslim vote. The BJP has tried to explain this by putting forward a theory that Muslim women voted for it because of its stand on the Muslim divorce law. However, we cannot ignore the fact that the BJP did not give any ticket to any Muslim woman either.

Mayawati, the leader of the BSP, has been the most vocal in claiming that the EVMs were tampered with. She is saying that the BJP won in many constituencies where the Dalits were in a big majority and that never happened before. Again, it is possible that some Dalits might have crossed over to vote for the BJP. However, it is very unlikely that it could have happened at the scale which is reflected in the election results. Moreover, none of the election surveys showed such a major shift in the Dalit attitude towards the BSP and Mayawati. If this were the case, it should have been caught before the election results or at least the possibility of this happening should have been raised. Nothing like that happened before the results were declared.

If the Election Commission completely disregards such allegations of tampering and continues with the EVMs, then very serious questions, concerns and doubts about the fairness of the process will remain, and an irreparable damage can be done to our democracy. If we want our democracy to remain credible, then we have to address this issue. The question of fairness in an election process is fundamental for saving a democracy. In the era of globalization, this issue will not remain confined to a local level for long; it can quickly become a global issue. The ruling party cannot expect the world media to ignore such an issue. What happened in the Rajya Sabha should send this message to the ruling party that the more it tries to avoid or suppress this issue, the more it will bounce back.

Fairness of the election process can easily become a rallying point for the opposition parties in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Regardless of this issue, the opposition parties should unite so that if the BJP wants to bring fundamental changes in the domestic and foreign policies, then it should have a clear mandate from the people. If the opposition is divided and fractured, then the BJP can win the election with about one-third voters (30%-33%) supporting its policies. In other words, BJP can win the election even if two-thirds of the people do not agree with its policies.

The opposition parties have a moral obligation to prevent such a scenario. Therefore, they should unite to save the democracy. This will be good for everybody, including the BJP. It does not want to be in a situation where it has to regret that changing the time-tested policies was not good for the country and the people. Switching back to the ballot paper from the EVMs can provide the rallying point for such unity.

Sawraj Singh

Via E-mail

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