The Bard of Avon would call it much ado about nothing. After making a song dance about doctored electronic voting machines, parties have developed cold feet when it mattered the most. Going by their response 'The Great EVM Challenge' is likely to end up a damp squib.
It was expected to be the event of the decade, nay many decades. After all, it’s not every day that a constitutional authority like the Election Commission throws a public challenge of this nature. It is not often that supposedly fool-proof technology comes under such intense questioning. And imagine the political earthquake if any party taking it up managed to rig the voting machine in its favour! It would render all elections post the introduction of EVMs in 1998 a massive fraud on the Indian voter.
Less than 24 hours to go for parties to apply for the tampering challenge, there are no takers, said the Election Commission on Thursday. The hacking exercise was scheduled to begin from 3 June. Seven national parties and 46 parties from states were invited to participate. All have chickened out of the hackfest and the commission seems to have won its case without even having to make an effort. According to reports in the media, it might call off the event as the deadline ends on Friday without a response.
Only a few weeks ago, the Aam Aadmi Party made a hue and cry over the tamperability of the voting machines being used in India. It had demonstrated in the Delhi Assembly, for the benefit of all legislators and some guests invited specially for the occasion that the voting machines indeed were not as inviolable as made out by the commission. If you press the code of a party immediately after casting your vote then all subsequent votes would get directed towards one particular party.
Saurav Bharadwaj, AAP legislator and a former software engineer, displayed helpfully that all votes went to the BJP after the entering of the code word. Soon after the massive victory of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, some parties, including BSP, Congress and AAP had claimed that the machines were rigged to help the party win elections. The AAP was particularly irked by the fact that it lost in Punjab where it was considered the favourite by many.
The commission responded by inviting parties to the hackathon. The AAP now says that the challenge is pointless since the poll authority won’t allow it to tinker with the motherboard. Congress and the BSP, parties which made a hue and cry earlier, have gone silent now. What was all the noise about then? The parties, particularly that of Arvind Kejriwal’s, end up looking silly. It appears they were only being bad losers after getting squarely defeated. They cannot just accept that they lost to BJP and its leader Narendra Modi.
The charge against voting machines, in a way, reflects the lack of ideas in these parties. They had raised an important question. All machines are manipulable, the Supreme Court itself had observed while hearing the case. In several countries voting machines have been abandoned for this specific reason. While in India the security features are much advanced, it is possible that hackers could be trying hard to circumvent these to rig results. Criminals find a way to beat technology, so it is always better to put it under test from time to time.
The hackathon was a perfect opportunity to do that. Now that the parties have backed out, they have also lost the right to blame voting machines in future. But they have created doubts in the minds of many Indians on the fairness of our elections. It would be nice if the commission showed them that nothing is wrong. The BJP, which was the obvious target of the other parties via the tampering allegation, now gets the right to mock them some more.
Meanwhile, the Bard of Avon, wherever he is, can go back to sleep. Much ado about nothing is no big deal in India.
Updated Date: May 26, 2017 20:32 PM