Stick to EVMs, but ensure a foolproof election process
Opposition parties are right to raise concerns, but they must not interpret the malfunctioning of a few units of VVPATs to suggest that the entire EVM machine model — which has made elections more sound, prevented instances of booth capturing, made counting quicker — is flawedUpdated: May 29, 2018 23:42 IST
The recent by-polls for four Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Nagaland and nine assembly seats in a range of other states have triggered a major political controversy. Political parties in general — and the opposition parties led by the Congress, the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Lok Dal in particular — alleged there had been rampant malfunctioning of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verified Audit Trail Machines (VVPATs), which had been used in all booths. The Election Commission of India (ECI) dismissed reports of large scale malfunctioning as “exaggerated”, and said 96 balloting units, 84 control units of EVMs, and 1202 VVPATs had to be replaced. Over the past year, there has been a political controversy around the use of EVMs. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had first alluded to manipulation of EVMs as the cause of its defeat in Punjab. Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati also blamed EVMs after her devastating loss in Uttar Pradesh. In Gujarat, the Congress — if it lost with a substantial margin — had prepared its case to blame EVMs. Indeed, in its plenary in March, the party called for a return to the ballot paper. ECI, in response to these concerns, had last year invited all parties to scrutinise the operation of EVMs; it has also introduced VVPATs in all booths to ensure that there is verification. Ironically, some of these machines malfunctioned on Monday.
The recent controversy has happened in this political context. It is important for all sides to step back and first understand that at stake is the very integrity of the democratic process. This faith in the election system, voting process, the outcome that emerges out of the process, has given India constitutional and democratic stability. It has enabled a smooth transfer of power from one government to another. It has ensured that despite anger and disillusionment with political regimes, the majority of citizens remain wedded to peaceful methods of political change. And that is why any charges and criticisms must be made with care. Parties are right to raise concerns. But they must not interpret the malfunctioning of a few units of VVPATs to suggest that the entire EVM machine model — which has made elections more sound, prevented instances of booth capturing, made counting quicker — is flawed. It is a step forward from ballot papers and India must continue with it. At the same time, ECI must recognise that there is now a substantial section of political opinion which has doubts about the integrity of EVMs; the onus lies on it to make the process even more robust, be fully transparent and allay doubts; and ensure that efficiency does not come at the cost of credibility.
First Published: May 29, 2018 18:51 IST