EVM Hack: Play politics, certainly. But don't play with the idea of our democracy
The exercise to discredit EVMs is underway only to ensure there is a scapegoat ready in the event of an electoral loss. It shows deep nervousness, and total cynicism regarding the democratic processes we hold dear.
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Five states went to the polls in December 2018. The BJP, which is ruling at the Centre currently, lost three states — Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh — the last two of which it had held onto for the past 15 years.
The Opposition called the mandate a rejection of the BJP’s governance, which it said was inefficient and corrupt.
No party cried 'EVM malfunction' after the results of the Assembly elections to five states were declared in December 2018. (Source: PTI)
The voting happened through Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
The winners celebrated, the losers said they needed to communicate better with voters — but no one blamed the EVMS and everyone thought that the debate over the possible tampering of these machines was over.
But, on Monday, January 21, a fresh controversy over the subject broke out when a London-based hacker said he could hack the electronic voting machines used in India. Now, a random hacker making such a claim would not have really mattered — if Congress leader Kapil Sibal would not have been present at the event where the claim was made.
To ensure the claim had a widespread reach, the event was broadcast live on Facebook.
The Congress, however, is not the only party which has an ‘imagined’ problem with the EVMs.
The 23 Opposition parties that recently attended the ‘united India’ rally in West Bengal discussed the EVM issue after the rally on Saturday, January 19.
In fact, a four-party committee was reportedly tasked after the rally with formulating a strategy to take the Opposition campaign against EVMs forward.
Some of these parties want the Election Commission of India to go back to the use of ballot papers. Parties that are asking for a return to ballot papers — the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) — have had a reported history of booth capturing. Their demand to thus go back to the same old jungle raj is quite understandable.
BSP workers protest against the alleged tampering of EVMs. (Source: India Today)
But the presence of a senior Congress leader at an event that tried to punch holes in India’s claim of being a robust democracy is indeed worrisome.
Gone are those days when goons masquerading as political party workers used to capture polling stations to tamper with our votes and make their candidate win. India has left those days far behind, thanks to EVMs.
Dr N Bhaskar Rao, an expert in poll surveys, told Business Standard, “The drastic difference we have seen is a steep fall in booth capturing from ten to one per cent. The three zones — Eastern UP and Bihar, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, MP and Jharkhand where votes were tampered to around 10 per cent but after the launch of EVMs the number came down to one per cent.”
Ironically, Congress leader and then-minister of state, Information and Broadcasting, Sachin Pilot, had said in 2009, “We have pioneered. The whole world looks up to us as to how we have digitalised our election process. I don't believe in the accusations. These machines are entirely foolproof and the whole credit goes to the Election Commission.”
The exercise to discredit EVMs is only being undertaken to ensure there is a scapegoat ready in the event of an electoral loss.
But while electoral losses are not permanent and can be reversed every five years, it is the damage done to the image and understanding of a robust Indian democracy that could be permanent.
The EC has time and time again said EVMs are tamper-proof, the Supreme Court is making efforts to ensure the doubts are dispelled and yet, political parties that should be working towards showing the world the great advances Indian democracy has made, are using international platforms to spread canards.
This is tragic.
And this betrays a marked crisis of confidence, not so much in the processes of our grand democracy perhaps, but more in the electoral appeal of these parties themselves.