Controversies over using EVMs

         IN the aftermath of the BJP sweeping to power in the recent Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, political organisations, particularly those that bit the dust in the polls, have been raising posers over reliability of the electronic voting machine (EVM) used while at the same time suggesting that the Election Commission of India should revert to the traditional system of using ballot papers. As was widely reported, the Commission acknowledged that after declaration of result of elections to state assemblies of Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, some political parties raised voices against the credibility of the EVMs, alleging tampering of EVMs during the said elections. Though five states went to the polls, the BJP handing the ruling Samajwadi Party and its allies a crushing defeat in UP, triggered the latest round of controversies on usage of EVMs. Significantly, only the Bahujan Samaj Party, which too had earlier held the rein of power in India’s most politically sensitive state, lodged formal complaint with the election conducting authority, while discontentment of other non-BJP political parties on the issue were mostly aired through the media. Regardless of concerns that EVMs are not temper-proof, the ECI has been unequivocally sticking to its stand that through effective technical and administrative safeguards, EVMs are secured election kits.

          It is learnt that ever since EVMs were introduced in 1982, there have been challenges regarding authenticity of the elections results compared to the speculation/calculation by both the political parties and the poll pundits on the outcome. One of the reasons for the doubting Thomases to do away with the EVMs is that they are being used to record the votes in political elections for an extremely long amount of time thus making them easy to manipulate the numbers and hack the systems, by those at the helm of affairs. As EVMs are considered to be technological advanced, facilitate hassle-free conduct of elections and make the process of election results announcement faster, the ECI based on series of demonstrations conducted in the presence of political representatives and necessary modifications or updating technological inputs, continues to rely on EVMs for the democratic exercise. The latest to challenge the ECI’s rationale for continuation with the EVMs is the outspoken Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who has been insisting that ballot papers should be used for the upcoming civic polls. Notwithstanding political parties raising posers over EVMs at one point or another, it is noteworthy that when they win with the same machines, they just keep quiet instead of publicly apologising and eating their words. On account of increasing number of political parties expressing dissatisfaction over continuous dependence on machines to decide the fate of the nation, it seems the ECI, apart from shouldering the responsibility of upholding India’s reputation as the largest democracy, is faced with the challenge of ensuring that the revered democratic principles are not compromised owing to reliance on gadgets which could be altered or tampered with in favour of certain political entity.

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