Over years, the Election Commission of India has earned accolades worldwide for efficient, free and fair conduct of polls and several countries, including Pakistan and Nepal, had sought its expertise in improving their electoral systems. The use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) has been one of the stellar success stories of India’s robust democracy. Since their introduction in 1982, the EVMs, with built-in mechanical and electronic safeguards against tampering, have helped in preventing electoral malpractices and improving the efficiency of the conduct of polls. Given such a blemishless track-record of the autonomous poll panel, the attempts in some political quarters to raise doubts over its functioning and cook up conspiracy theories of tampering are highly deplorable. The recent poll debacles have prompted Arvind Kejriwal and Mayawati to blame EVM tampering for their losses. Kejriwal, whose national ambitions suffered a setback with AAP’s defeats in Goa and Punjab, alleged that a big chunk of his party’s votes was diverted to the SAD in Punjab. On her part, Mayawati cited victory of BJP candidates in some of the Muslim-dominated constituencies of UP to claim that voting machines were manipulated. The poll panel did well to allay concerns over tampering and firmly rule out going back to the ballot paper era as demanded by the BSP supremo.
Curiously, such allegations were not made in 2015 when AAP swept Delhi Assembly polls, bagging 67 out of 70 seats, and Grand Alliance romped home in Bihar nor did Mayawati raise doubts over EVM functioning when her party stormed to power in 2007. The latest allegations can only be seen as outbursts of frustration by sore losers. The Election Commission follows elaborate and foolproof procedures at every stage such as getting the EVMs checked by party representatives while sealing and unsealing, before and after polling, before and after counting. Flawless procedures are put in place for the operation, maintenance and storage of EVMs. Even if one assumes that it is theoretically possible to hack the EVM system, the fraud cannot be executed without the involvement of thousands of poll personnel. It would be an impossible task because every machine will have to be tinkered with individually. Over 1.50 lakh EVMs were used in Uttar Pradesh, about 40,000 in Punjab and 11,000 in Uttarakhand. Even if less than 25 percent of these machines were to be tampered with, around one lakh people, ranging from poll staff, security personnel to representatives of contesting political parties, will have to be involved together. It would be outrageous to claim that the entire poll machinery conspires to manipulate the outcome in favour of a particular party. Instead of casting aspersions on constitutional authorities, it is time for political parties to gracefully accept the public mandate.