A concerted campaign against the authenticity of Electronic Voting Machines used in the Lok Sabha election has been launched by the Opposition parties in India. The campaign is a cause of great concern as it undermines the credibility of an institution like the Election Commission of India, which is the bedrock of Indian democracy.
A day after the rumours about exit polls being propagated by the Opposition and fuelled by its supporters on social media, visuals of EVMs being transported in trucks began to surface. The Election Commission of India clarified that they were the reserved EVMs that were to be used in case EVMs in polling booths developed a snag.
It appears that the Opposition is not only acting as a sore loser, but it is becoming a puppet in the hands of the radical Left that has infiltrated Congress at the upper level as well as regional outfits at various levels. Thus, minutes after the polling ended on 19 May, there was a flurry of statements from the Opposition casting doubt on EVMs.
The design of the Ultra-Left is to attack all democratic institutions, undermine their credibility and derail the democratic setup of the country. Some regional outfits and the Congress are becoming stooges in its hands as its is moving ahead to implement these nefarious designs after the Opposition failed to gather support on the ground.
In 2017, the EC had sent an open invitation by organising a 'hackathon' that invited hackers from any part of the country to come and demonstrate how to hack EVMs. None of the Opposition parties were able to show how EVMs can be tampered with.
Currently some the largest democracies in the world are are using EVMs in their polls effectively. It is interesting that as long as non-NDA parties were winning polls, there was no objection to the EVMs and now suddenly we see a grudge against the hapless machines.
The EVM was first used in the Kerala's Parur Assembly polls in 1982 when a Congress government was at the Centre. In 1990, the Dinesh Goswami Committee set up by the then government gave a report recommending the use of EVMs. Thus due diligence was done taking all parties on board. These machines were used in limited constituencies in the 1999 Lok Sabha election.
The 2004 polls that led to the Congress-led UPA replacing the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre were conducted through EVMS. The 2009 polls which Congress won again were also conducted through EVMs.
Earlier this year, the Congress formed government in three north Indian states after winning polls that were conducted via EVMs. The party also scored an upset in Karnataka and formed a government along with the JD(S) last year after doing well in the polls that were conducted through EVMs.
In a nutshell, the Opposition's message is very clear: When the BJP and allied parties lose polls, then EVMs are working fine but when BJP and allied parties win polls, the EVMs are tampered.
Such assertions are an outcome of not only ignorance but also the manifestation of an intent to manipulate the public discourse. Some of the basic facts need to be recalled here regarding the EVMs:
- These EVMs have been designed by the Election Commission's Technical Expert Committee (TEC) in collaboration with two PSUs, Bharat Electronics Limited, Bangalore and Electronic Corporation of India Limited, Hyderabad.
- The Electronic Voting Machines are used in some of the world's largest democracies, including Brazil and the Philippines. Some other countries that use EVMs are Belgium, Estonia, Venezuela, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Maldives, Namibia, Egypt, Bhutan and Nepal.
The credibility of India's EVMs is quite high. In 2014, Nigeria demanded EVMs from India. Indonesia sent its request for use of EVMs in 2016. The year 2017 saw request from four countries, Russia, Bhutan, Botswana and Papua New Guinea. Afghanistan and Namibia have sent their requests in 2019.
Since 2001, the issue of possible tampering of EVM has been raised before various high courts: Madras High Court (2001), Kerala High Court (2002), Delhi High Court (2004), Karnataka High Court (2004), Bombay High Court, Nagpur Bench (2004), Uttarakhand High Court (2017) and Supreme Court of India (2017).
After a detailed analysis of the various aspects of the technological security and administrative safeguards around the use of EVMs, the credibility, reliability and robustness of the EVMs have been validated by the various high courts in all the cases. In some of these cases, the Supreme Court has also dismissed appeals filed by some petitioners against high court orders that were in favour of EVMs.
There are several advantages of using EVMs. It completely eliminates the possibility of casting 'Invalid Votes', which during the paper ballot regime was noticed in large numbers during each election. In fact, in many cases, the number of 'Invalid Votes' exceeded the winning margin, leading to numerous complaints and litigation. Thus, EVMs have enabled a more authentic and accurate reflection of the choice of the electorate.
With the use of EVMs, printing of millions of ballot papers for every election can be dispensed with, as only one ballot paper is required for fixing on the balloting unit at each polling station instead of one ballot paper for each individual elector. This results in huge savings by way of cost of paper, printing, transportation, storage and distribution.
The counting process is very quick and the result can be declared within three to five hours as compared to 30 to 40 hours, on average, under the conventional ballot paper system.The microchip used in EVMs is a one-time programmable masked chip, which can neither be read nor overwritten. Hence, the program used in the EVMs cannot be reprogrammed in a particular manner.
Furthermore, the EVMs are standalone machines that are not accessible remotely from any network are connected with any external devices and there is no operating system used in these machines. There is, therefore, absolutely no chance of programming the EVMs in a particular way to select any particular candidate or political party.
The author is CEO of Indraprastha Vishwa Samvada Kendra. The views expressed are personal