May 22, 2019

EVM and Election Commission- Weapons of The Losers

Sumit Kr. Gupta and Ramanand

EVMs have always been a Pandora box in the Indian election. These vote boxes have become a bone of contention between the winning and the losing side. Overtimes, the losing side claims that the use of EVMs makes election vulnerable and rigged. Well, this is not the first time that Rahul Gandhi is questioning the credibility of EVMs or questioning the working of Election Commission and this, surely, will not be the last time that any politician will make such baseless allegation without giving any reasonable explanations.

Back in 2009, senior BJP leader LK Advani, who was on the losing side of the then a general election had demanded the old method of ballot papers to be used for the assembly elections in Maharashtra and three other states. The working and functioning of the EVMs started to be questioned since then.

Similarly, the table turned for the EVM machine when BJP won the general election in 2014. Almost all the losing parties made comments about some discrepancies creeping in the use of EVMs in their electorate/constituency. It was largely focused on the election of Uttar Pradesh when BJP swept 325 seats out of 403. It brought furore on the rival parties and all of them joined their hands to disregard results of EVMs which of course was a futile exercise.

Therefore, from Advani making claim about rigged EVM machines to Arvind Kejriwal marching into the controversy of blaming the tampering of EVM, the story has been a roller coaster for the innocuous EVMs in India.

Surprisingly, the Bombay High Court has declared EVMs as a hassle-free machine. The Hon’ble High Court ordered an examination of EVMs from the Parvati constituency in Pune. One control unit, one ballot unit and two batteries were sent to the lab. The report revealed that the machine is a stand-alone, non-networked, one-time programmable unit, which is neither computer controlled externally nor could be connected internally or to any network. The report cleared out any tampering, altering or any other possible manipulation of the EVMs.

Technically, it can be proven that hacking of the EVM is a near impossible task. The EVM is a single-chip unit with a pre-programmed set of instructions that are readable only by specific devices via a wired connection. The override can only be done in a circumstance wherein chips of the EVM is replaced which will, in turn, dismantle the whole unit altogether. Generally, in generation 2 machine the control unit records key stamping and in generation 3 machine the control unit will not allow any function. Ergo, it can be conclusively said that any tampering of the EVM machine will be easily detectable by any official. On top of it, every party is allowed to test any EVM before deploying to booths. EVMs are tested at the polling stations, locked with seals and signed by the respective representatives. So, party representatives can also verify if their seals have been broken, during counting. This again brings to the earlier proposition that tampering of EVM is a near impossible task. Therefore, these outlandish theories of EVMs hacking by the losing side should be disregarded altogether.

During elections, there is another controversy which catches headlines of the media outlets. It has become trite to accuse the Election Commission about nepotism, rigged polls verdict etc. while not having any trust on Constitutional mechanism of the country.

Again, this is not the first time that the Election Commission has been accused of nepotism and certainly, this will not be the last time. In 2008, opposition parties sought then Election Commissioner Navin Chawla removal on grounds that he “lacks fairness and non-partisan approach” because of his “close proximity” to the Congress and its leadership. In fact, it was alleged that private trusts run by his family had received donations from Congress MPs which would compromise his impartial role as an Election Commissioner.

In 2009, he was again caught in an extreme controversy wherein the then CEC had cited as many as 12 instances in his 900-page report to President Pratibha Patil to conclude that Navin Chawla was not impartial in his role as Election Commissioner. He went to quote the 1995 judgment of the Apex Court wherein it was told that: “The agency which is entrusted the task of holding elections to the legislatures should be fully insulated so that it can function as an independent agency free from external pressures from the party in power or executive of the day.” The then CEC had said that Chawla invariably visited loos during crucial meetings to pass on secret information to Congress.

Despite drawing a pool of controversies from every arena, Navin Chawla became the Chief Election Commissioner and ended his tenure in July 2010.

Therefore, the rigged polls, the tampering of EVMs, questioning the credibility of the Election Commission etc. is not new in the Indian Politics.

Even after the exit polls, the opposition parties are complaining about EVMs and VVPAT security. Opposition parties have been complaining about EVM malfunctioning for a while now. In addition to this, ECI has come under heavy criticism right from the day they announced the schedule of the elections. In some of the places, leaders are claiming that many EVMs are being moved to change the number of votes in favour of the ruling party. Ergo, the claims about rigged polls, EVM tampering and questioning the working of EC will be kept raising by the losing side.

The losing side cannot digest defeat in the elections and thus starts questioning both EVMs and Election Commission in order to find an excuse for their defeat. This random element of unnecessary allegations makes it inherently more difficult to believe the authenticity of EVMs. The general mass gets misled on these wild allegation and conspiracy theories of the losing side. Probably, the losing side should also learn to accept defeat rather than always pointing fingers at EVMs and Election Commission. After all, it is the people who chose the representative and not EVM or Election Commission.

23rd May is not too far from now and it would be interesting on how the events roll out after the results.