Election Commission forced to use paper ballots in Telangana bypolls: EVMs would be gone soon nationally
“ECI preparing for life without EVMs..?”
I have been repeatedly asserting in this blog that the EVMs would soon be history. Many of my friends and EVM critics wondered if this was possible and realistic. The decision of the ECI to hold by-elections in 11 assembly constituencies of Telangana with ballot papers bears out my assessment.
I have long argued that the continuation of EVMs is untenable and their exit inevitable. Transparency, verifiability and accountability are essential features of free and fair elections. Our electoral democracy is seriously imperiled if voters supporting losing candidates and parties do not believe that have actually been defeated in polls. Likewise, losing parties and candidates must have faith in election results.
Here is an interesting quote I came across in the context of U.S. elections:
“The Democrats think Republicans are stealing elections. The Republicans think Democrats are stealing elections. And, those of us who are neither, know they are both right.” (Kevin Zeese, American Political Activist)
The same holds true for India. The electronic voting machines have become deeply suspect in the eyes of the Indian political class. Parties dread the prospect of EVMs “defeating” them. This mistrust in EVMs is not confined to a few and is all encompassing.
Today, it is difficult to find parties that vouch for the continued use of EVMs in Indian elections. On the contrary, there is a flood of opposition to the EVMs from the political class. The political class cutting across all sides of the divide has just one verdict: “we don’t trust the EVMs”.
The vote of “no confidence” by political parties stems from the personal experiences of parties and leaders, surprising nature of election results thrown up by the EVMs and the scientific evidence that is now available that has shown the ECI’s “tamper proof” claims as bunkum. (Refer the following pages for the scientific study.)
Just sample the following developments and statements by different parties to understand the level of distrust in the EVMs:
- 13 political parties (comprising all the left parties, Telugu Desam party, AIADMK, Samajwadi party, Rastriya Janata Dal, Janata Dal United among others) submitted a joint memorandum to the ECI in the first week of May this year demanding a review of EVMs. Those who are not signatories to the memorandum also have spoken against EVMs.
- Orissa unit of the Congress party had earlier alleged that the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) had manipulated EVMs to win 2009 elections in the state. Karnataka unit of the Congress feels that it has fared much better in local Panchayat polls held in May this year when paper ballots were used and demanded a review of use of EVMs in state and national elections.
- The Trinamool Congress, another member of the ruling UPA coalition at the Centre, alleged tampering of EVMs by the CPI (M) to win local polls in West Bengal in May this year.
- Recently, the TRS has alleged that it fears manipulation of the EVMs by the ruling Congress party to defeat them in by-elections in Telangana. This is not just another by-election and has huge significance to the TRS and the formation of a separate state of Telangana.
- L.K. Advani, Chairman of the BJP parliamentary Party was the first among the national leaders to voice concerns about the EVMs and the need to return to paper ballots or to introduce adequate safeguards in EVMs.
The Election Commission was expected to take the concerns of various political parties and citizens’ groups regarding EVMs seriously and look into possible remedies. Far from it, the Election Commission had adopted a self-righteous and ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude and dismissed all fears as imaginary and illusory.
Despite the best efforts to resist discontinuation of EVMs, the Election Commission has the “unpleasant” (as it perhaps sees it) task of re-introducing paper ballots on a significant scale many years after they have been phased out.
The TRS shock delivered to the Election Commission is a desperate political action to thwart ECI’s plans to thrust unreliable, tamper prone EVMs over the political parties. Its pep talk that “all is well with the EVMs” has no takers and many insiders in the Nirvachan Sadan and the officialdom in the states also have developed some healthy doubts about EVMs.
I hope this humbling experience in Telangana would have a positive effect on the ECI and help it respond to the EVM issue in a mature fashion. Rather than hanker after a false notion of saving its prestige, it is about time the ECI initiated a dialogue with various political parties and other stakeholders on the need for voting system reform.
If the ECI continues with its tyrannical tendency, believe me, it would have nothing to protect: neither the EVMs nor its prestige.
Say goodbye to the non-transparent Indian EVMs! You may not get a chance to see them again.
Trust me, it is good riddance!
I can be reached at nrao@indianEVM.com