Charges of EVM fraud can only further polarise the nation
Today is the day of reckoning for all political parties, but it’s also more. It’s the day the country’s people elect those who will represent them for the next five years, and who will also run the country with an eye on the welfare and development of all its citizens. In 2014, a section of the intelligentsia chose to make much of the fact that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had won with a vote share of just 31%. There were some who said Narendra Modi wasn’t their prime minister because they hadn’t elected him. The fact is, India’s elections are based on the first-past-the-post system (as opposed to, say, proportional representation), and any party that wins a clear majority fair and square under such a system and forms the government represents all Indians, not just those who voted for it.
This time, there has been a lot of talk of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). These are low-tech, not networked, lack Bluetooth capability, and definitely cannot be hacked. And while it may be possible to replace one EVM with another — this is the latest conspiracy theory doing the rounds — the fact that EVMs used in elections have unique numbers (shared with the candidates) and are sealed in the presence of candidates (or their agents), with the signatures of the agents affixed on the seal, making it difficult to swap machines. Such theories are insidious and dangerous, and will only serve to polarise the country along the lines of parties. Enough of that has already happened during the extended election.
The length of these elections and the quality of political discourse during these elections has attracted criticism. As has the conduct of the Election Commission of India (ECI), which has done itself no favours by appearing slow, opaque, and kind to the incumbent government. Indeed, if fanciful theories about EVMs are doing the rounds, it is because ECI’s credibility is perhaps the lowest it has been. The poll body has now established a control room to address all EVM-related issues but there are several learnings it can take from its performance during this election.
Still, it doesn’t make sense to extend doubts about the ECI’s performance into larger questions about the elections themselves, and their fairness. Nor does it make sense to treat the incoming government as anything but the government of all India and all Indians. The new government will have to reinforce this with its intent and actions — just as people have to with their faith and belief in the State.