The Supreme Court’s rejection of a review petition by 21 leaders of opposition parties on the increased use of the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) must bring the curtains down on an unsavoury campaign against Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). The vilification of the voting machines by conspiracy theorists must end now. The petitioners had sought that the random matching of VVPAT slips with EVMs should be raised to at least 25% as against the present 2%. But, the apex court has rightly refused to modify its April 8 order directing the Election Commission to increase the number for random tallying from one to five polling booths per Assembly segment in the parliamentary polls. The paper trail has been introduced precisely for the purpose of dispelling apprehensions about the functioning of EVMs. However, the doubting Thomases are still not satisfied and are rooting for going back to the ballot paper system in the name of confidence-building. It is a regressive idea to revert to ballot paper system when the EVMs have proved their trustworthiness over decades and helped in preventing electoral malpractices like rigging and booth capturing. Political parties must desist from casting aspersions on the technology-driven, foolproof process that has earned laurels for the country. It is deplorable that Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, who never loses an opportunity to boast of his tech-savvy credentials, has taken a lead in the campaign against EVMs, invoking conspiracy theories. Such a deliberately misleading campaign, if allowed to spread, can have a detrimental impact on democracy in the long run and erode public faith in the electoral process.
The unsavoury controversies should not eclipse all the good work done by a dedicated army of poll officials and workers. It is true that some voting machines malfunction on the polling day due to a variety of technical reasons but they cannot be manipulated. It would be outrageous to claim that the entire poll machinery conspires to manipulate the outcome in favour of a particular party. It is time the political parties realised the dangers of dragging the neutral institutions and time-tested electoral processes into partisan politics and trash the voting machines, disregarding their proven track record since their introduction over three-and-a-half decades ago. The indigenous EVMs, the standalone, non-networked machines that run on a single programmed microchip, have proved to be quite ahead of the curve when compared with the machines being used in other parts of the world. At least five high courts had concluded in the past that EVMs are credible and totally tamperproof. The use of EVMs has been one of the stellar success stories of India’s mature democracy and an independent Election Commission. Nothing should be done to tarnish this image.