Election Commission shows it has spine

The poll panel has faced a couple of challenges in the past few months – and has come off with flying colours

GN Bureau | August 18, 2017


#election commission of India   #elections   #ECI  


The election commission has become increasingly assertive in the past few months, showing its mettle in times of electoral challenges.
 
Weeks after rooting from EVMs and just days after the poll panel declared votes cast by two rebel Congress legislators in the Rajya Sabha election as invalid, election commissioner OP Rawat made a scathing comment on Thursday.
 
“Democracy thrives when elections are free, fair and transparent. However, it appears to a cynical common man that we have been scripting a narrative that places maximum premium on winning at all costs — to the exclusion of ethical considerations,” Rawat said at the ‘Consultation on Electoral and Political Reforms’ organised by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR).
 
Rawat fell like a tonne of bricks on the politicians who lack scruples. “In this narrative, poaching of legislators is extolled as smart political management; strategic introduction of money for allurement, tough-minded use of state machinery for intimidation etc. are all commended as resourcefulness. The winner can commit no sin; a defector crossing over to the ruling camp stands cleansed of all the guilt as also possible criminality. It is this creeping ‘new normal’ of political morality that should be the target for exemplary action by all political parties, politicians, media, civil society organisations, constitutional authorities and all those having faith in democratic polity for better election, a better tomorrow,” added Rawat. 
 
The election commission was put to test in Gujarat during the Rajya Sabha polls.
 
Congress lost six MLAs to the BJP, prompting the party to whisk away its remaining 44 legislators to a resort in Karnataka. Congress candidate Ahmed Patel faced a huge challenge.
 
The Congress sought election commission’s protection after the Income Tax department carried out raids at the premises linked to Karnataka energy minister D K Shivakumar who was coordinating the stay of the Congress MLAs from Gujarat.
 
On the election day, Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil alleged that Bholabhai Gohil and Raghavjibhai Patel had showed their ballots to BJP party president Amit Shah.
 
Leaders from both parties rushed to the election, which went by the book and invoked Article 324 of the Constitution to revoke the decision of its Returning Officer (RO) in the state and declared invalid the votes cast by two rebel Congress MLAs in favour of the BJP candidate. Ahmed Patel of the Congress scraped through.
 
Till hours before the decision came, there were numerous tweets that claimed that the poll panel is under pressure from the government and they predicted that the decision will go in favour of the BJP. Nothing of that sort happened and the election commission showed it carries out its work independently.
 
Even during the brouhaha raised by the Aam Aadmi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party who claimed that the electronic voting machines were not tamper-proof, the election commission was unmoved and quite categorical that the EVMs can’t be tampered with.
 
Maintaining “unequivocally” that the electronic voting machines (EVMs) cannot be tampered with, the Election Commission said the integrity of the electoral process had been “preserved”. “These are as tamper proof as ever,” the poll panel said in a statement.
 
The election commission put to rest any doubts about the EVMS, saying the machine is electronically protected to prevent any tampering/manipulation. The programme (software) used in these machines is burnt into a One Time Programmable (OTP)/Masked chip so that it cannot be altered or tampered with. Further these machines are not networked either by wire or by wireless to any other machine or system. Therefore, there is no possibility of its data corruption.
 
The commission has put in place an elaborate administrative system of security measures and procedural checks-and-balances aimed at prevention of any possible misuse or procedural lapses. These safeguards are implemented by ECI transparently with the active and documented involvement of political parties, candidates and their representatives at every stage to build their confidence on efficacy and reliability of EVMs, said a PIB release
 
Not content by just issuing statements, the election commission went a step ahead and decided to hold an EVM challenge, akin to a hackathon.
 
It was a challenge that was open to the political parties. But, it proved to be a damp squib.
 
Neither Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) nor Communist Party of India (Marxist), the two parties which had registered as challengers, went ahead with attempting to hack the EVMs.
 
This effectively means that the Election Commission’s EVM challenge, which was open to 7 national parties and 49 state parties, went unchallenged and would help the poll watchdog cement its claims that the EVMs under administrative and technical safeguards are non-tamperable, reported The Mint.
 
The election commission has shown what it is made up of and is clearly not to be pushed around.
 
 
 

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