Senior Congress leader M Veerapa Moily's statement taking on his own party the Indian National Congress for showing a "defeatist" mindset on Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) is indicative of the deep divide that exists in the main opposition party's ranks on the issue. It also shows the kind of anxiety that is there among a section of its leaders over the party leadership's rent-a-cause attitude, irrespective of the veracity of the issue, its degree of popular support and potential pitfalls.
The shrillness with which the 16 political parties including Congress, Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), All India Trinamool Congress (TMC), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Aam Aadmi Party and the Left parties are alleging EVM tampering essentially suggests they have not reconciled to the defeat in recent rounds of Assembly and local bodies elections.
Finding fault at the EVM, which have been delivering credible and fast results for over 35 years, is an easy alibi to take the attention away from the concerned parties leadership failure to win public trust and votes. Unfortunately, the likes of Rahul Gandhi, Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav, Arvind Kejriwal, Mamata Banerjee, D Raja, Sharad Pawar, Sharad Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav have chosen to fight a flimsy, fictitious battle against trustworthy voting machines when they should have been fighting a political battle against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on policies and issues through varied programmes.
It should be noted that Rahul Gandhi has not held a single review meeting with his party leaders after Congress's rout in UP and Uttrakhand. The UP election results have thrown a situation where Mayawati would not remain a Member of Parliament (MP) in Rajya Sabha after March 2013. With zero seats in Lok Sabha, staring at a zero in Rajya Sabha in times to come and with negligible numbers in the UP assembly, Mayawati, like Congress, is facing an existential crisis. It is anybody's guess why Mayawati came out with EVM tinkering theory even as the results were still coming out. Anyone who had covered UP elections with open eyes could sense a wave-like situation for BJP.
The Congress party is even unmindful of the fact that it was Rajeev Gandhi government with its brute majority in Parliament in 1988 that had amended Representation of the People Act and inserted a new section 61A to empower the Election Commission of India to use voting machines. Since the year 2000, EVMs have been successfully used in 107 Assembly elections and three Parliamentary elections.
Elections of all kinds — Parliamentary, Assembly, Presidential and local bodies (rural and urban included) in the country — are held by ECI and by the election commissions of respective states. All officials, central and state engaged for poll-related works function during election period under the strict supervision of ECI. By alleging that BJP has been tinkering with EVMs, election after election, at whim in whichever part of the country it so wishes is actually a charge against the ECI, a Constitutional Body which is recognised across the world as the finest impartial institution India has created to hold free and fair elections.
The sixteen political parties have not only latched on to Mayawati's accusations on EVMs recording most votes to BJP in the recently concluded UP Assembly election but they stretched it to all recent municipal and panchayat elections in the recent past. The ECI has given a detailed point-by-point rebuttal to charges made by these parties. The poll panel also clarified that there are multi-layered check processes where representatives of political parties participate in testing and sealing of the EVM machines from the point it is released from the factory to polling stations. The parties, candidates and their representatives have multiple occasions to point out a malfunction if they find one.
Those raising a hell against the ECI, the Modi government and BJP on flimsy claims of EVM tinkering should spare some minutes to read various judicial pronouncements. Since 2001, the matter has been settled by five high courts — Madras High Court in 2001, Delhi High Court in 2004, Karnataka High Court in 2004, Kerala High Court in 2002 and Bombay High Court (Nagpur Bench) in 2004. The verdicts of the high courts concluded that EVMs are credible, reliable and totally tamperproof. In some of these cases, even the Supreme Court dismissed appeals filed by some petitioners against the high court orders.
it's worth noting what the Karnataka High Court had to say on the matter: "This invention is undoubtedly a great achievement in electronic and the computer technology and a national pride." The Madras High Court observed: "There is also no question of introducing any virus or bugs for the reason that the EVMs cannot be compared to personal computers. The programming in computers, as suggested, has no bearing with the EVMs. The computer would have inherent limitations having connections through the Internet and by their very design, they may allow the alteration of the programme but the EVMs are independent units and the programme in EVM is entirely a different system."
Supposing for a moment that the charges levelled by the Opposition parties are true then one also has to appreciate the kind of invisible army of thousands and even lakhs of well-trained people that the BJP has created to stealthily manually tamper every single sealed EVM that is kept in polling stations. Not just that, the BJP has compromised the entire system — the ECI, its state subsidiaries, poll officials at all levels, security officials and personnel at all levels, parties' candidates and their representatives in all constituencies — without the world getting an inkling of it. They have done it without getting noticed at any level of the multi-tiered checks. Going by that assumption, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have to be geniuses of the highest order who could create and an army of invisible "Mr Indias" whose stealth acts — breaking and reassembling of lakhs of EVMs — would not be seen by anyone or captured by any camera.
In 2014, when BJP registered an emphatic victory in the Parliamentary elections, Congress was ruling at the centre and the party and its new-found 16-party EVM brigade were ruling the two-third of the states in India. When BJP won UP in March 2017, the state was under the rule of SP while Uttrakhand was ruled by Congress. AAP won Delhi in 2015, winning 67 out of the 70 seats when BJP was ruling at the centre and the state was in Lt Governor's rule. BJP lost Bihar and Punjab but then the EVM brigade said that BJP consciously didn't tamper polling machines there.
Now consider what Moily, a multiple-term Congress MP, former law minister and former Karnataka chief minister had to say:
"EVMs, we know very well. Even during our period (UPA), we got them tested. EVM is not the reason. Just because you are defeated? Only the defeatist people will blame EVMs, otherwise, there is no point... This populism will destroy your base. Congress should not go for populism. Just because somebody in some region took up the issue, I don't think you (Congress) should play second fiddle to them."
In a well-argued article Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MP Jay Panda said, "Those who demand a rollback to paper ballots are wrong, and forget why we moved on from them. After all, despite the real risks of road accidents, we don't abandon motor vehicles and go back to horse-drawn carriages. Instead, we implement safety measures like speed limits, seat belts and helmets."
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Updated Date: Apr 12, 2017 19:21:24 IST