Governance Now Visionary Talks Series

Trust deficit of EVMs? Blame it on BJP

To articulate the case against machines, AAP, BSP should learn from the saffron party's 2009 campaign

GN Bureau | March 15, 2017


#election commission   #Mayawati   #Arvind Kejriwal   #Narendra Modi   #BSP   #AAP   #BJP   #politics   #Elections  



The elections are over, votes are counted, victors are being sworn in – ok, in a couple of places the runners-up are being sworn in. And losers are blaming it on electronic voting machines. It’s all on par, as per the script.

On Saturday, even as full results were yet to come in, BSP chief Mayawati held a press conference and accused the BJP of manipulating EVMs. She also wrote to the election commission seeking a probe. The charge was ridiculous, and everybody saw it as a rant from a bad loser.
 
However, she is now joined by AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal. He has made two points: one, he urged the Delhi election commission to use the old-fashioned paper ballots in the April 22 municipal elections (the state election commission turned it down, saying there is no time to change the method now). Two, on Wednesday he addressed a press conference, and demanded a probe into the use of EVMs in Punjab elections – where his party had high hopes of a win but has come only second to the Congress. Kejriwal has demanded that the voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) be counted and matched with the EVM results.
 
“If the numbers are same, then faith in the process will be restored. But, if there is a mismatch in the numbers, then something else needs to be done,” said Kejriwal, adding that people had lost faith in the poll process.
 
To buttress his arguments, he said the apex court had observed that EVMs are vulnerable and prone to tampering. “Countries like US and Japan have barred the use of EVMs,” he said.
 
Unlike, Mayawati’s charge, this one is not directed at BJP, and may have some substance too. But the claim that people had lost faith in the system is rather over the top.
 
Yet, as BJP and its supporters reply to blame-it-on-EVM campaign with slogans of victory-of-democracy, few recall that the best case against EVMs was made by only this ruling party – in 2009 when it could not believe a second victory to Manmohan Singh.

BJP’s case
 
Back then, it was the BJP’s prime-ministerial candidate LK Advani who had mounted a campaign against EVMs. Psephologist – and now party general secretary – GVL Narasimha Rao had written numerous articles in the media as well as academic papers and presentations chalking out an apparently watertight case against EVMs.
 
For example, in an article published online titled Ten Reasons for Banning Indian EVMs’, his gist is:

1.      The Whole World has Discarded Similar EVMs
2.      Use of EVMs is Unconstitutional and Illegal Too!
3.      EVM Software Isn’t Safe
4.      .....Nor is The Hardware
5.      EVMs are Sitting Ducks
6.      “Insider” Fraud a Concern
7.      Storage and Counting are Concerns
8.      Vote of No Confidence
9.      EC is Clueless on Technology
10.  Trust Deficit
 
Also read Narasimha Rao’s Case against EVMs 
 
Running the campaign under the banner of ‘Save Indian Democracy’, told rediff.com in March 2014 that that the bigger issue was that the government dragged its feet on sanctioning funds for the introduction of VVPAT despite a supreme court order a year ago. He said, “To begin with every EVM needs to be kept in a secure environment so that it is cannot be tampered with. However, what we had found is that these machines were dumped in an open yard which made it vulnerable to tampering.” 
 
Advani’s allegations

In July 2009, Advani sought the reintroduction of ballot papers in elections, beginning with the Maharashtra assembly elections that were to be held in October that year. "We should revert to ballot papers unless the election commission is able to ensure that EVMs are foolproof and every possibility of their malfunctioning is taken care of," Advani had told the Sunday Express. 
 
He cited instances from Germany and the US and said that “no one was raising any questions like rigging or malpractices in the elections”, but larger questions about the "possibility of EVMs' malfunctioning...must be addressed”.
 
Moreover, the redoubtable Subramanian Swamy, then of Janata Party and now with the BJP, not only demanded that EVMs not be used, he also moved the supreme court on the matter.
In Civil Appeal No. 9093 of 2013 of Swamy versus the election commission of India, Swamy contended that “the present system of EVMs, as utilized in the last few general elections in India, does not meet all the requirements of the international standards and though the ECI maintains that the EVMs cannot be tampered with, but the fact is that EVMs, like all electronic equipments, are open to hacking”.

He highlighted that the matter arises out of the refusal of the ECI to incorporate a certain obvious safeguard in the EVMs called “paper backup”, “paper receipt” or “paper trail”, presently in use and mandated in some countries like the US, which would easily and cheaply meet the requirement of proof that the EVM has rightly registered the vote cast by a voter.

The supreme court in its judgment said: “From the materials placed by both the sides, we are satisfied that the “paper trail” is an indispensable requirement of free and fair elections. The confidence of the voters in the EVMs can be achieved only with the introduction of the “paper trail”. EVMs with VVPAT system ensure the accuracy of the voting system. With an intent to have fullest transparency in the system and to restore the confidence of the voters, it is necessary to set up EVMs with VVPAT system because vote is nothing but an act of expression which has immense importance in democratic system.”
 
 

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