A JOKE IN A MAGAZINE DECADES AGO quoted a laundry advertisement of in the early days of washing machines. The ad said: “We don’t tear your clothes with machines. We do it carefully by hand.” Torn by hand or by a machine, torn clothes are equally useless.
Uttar Pradesh Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati’s declaration that she was defeated by Electronic Voting Machines and not by Bharatiya Janata Party was, however, not meant to be a joke (though it sounds like a cheap one).
And there is no distinction between paper voting and EVM voting if physical tampering is done in both. Even the one-time mentor of Arvind Kejriwal, Anna Hazare, thinks it is a retrograde step to go back to paper votes and ballot boxes simply because Kejriwal, Rahul Gandhi and ‘Behenji’ want it.
Any innovation, whether a machine or a concept, is usually opposed by those who want a ‘status quo’. This distrust of anything new, aversion to change, is the biggest hurdle in the way of progress. There are always people, like the laundry of the ad, who have a vested interest in status quo. And there are always sections of the media playing up a controversy as it is easier to write about than serious investigative or analytical reports.
One of them played up the story of anc independent candidate who said that he and his family voted at their booth, but the booth showed he got zero votes. It did not occur to the newspaper that booth-wise vote count is not declared. Getting 40 votes, he was obviously a frivolous contestant. They only bloated the ballot paper, posing problems.
In Karnataka’s Belgaum (now Belagavi) the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti had once fielded hundreds of candidates as a protest, resulting in a ballot paper as big as a newspaper page and making voting a very slow process.
Many learned and important people, who hate Narendra Modi and his party, used the report to cast doubts on the accuracy of voting machines and fanned the fires of rumours that they can be hacked. That was the signal for losers Arvind Kejriwal and Rahul Gandhi, both not not illiterates, to demand that EVMs be scrapped and elections held in the old way of printed ballot papers put in the ballot box by the voters.
The story was published along with the UP Assembly election results on March 11. On 12th, a Sunday, the British Broadcasting Corporation put on its website at 9 pm, a report “US Scientists ‘Hack’ India’s Electronic Voting Machines“.
Both reports created the impression that the UP elections were rigged. The zero vote was from the Mumbai municipal elections and the BBC post was an old report of 2010. Facing protests, BBC took it off its website at11 pm. By then 2000 people had already downloaded it, according to a website, ‘The LotPot’, which exposed the duplicity of BBC deliberately timing it to create the impression that EVMs in UP polls were hacked, without saying so.
The 2010 report said one Hari K. Prasad, a techie, with the help of a professor and some computer students of University of Michigan – glorified as ‘American scientists’ by BBC – found that the EVMs could be manipulated by physically tampering with the hardware.
‘Hacking’ relates to software without physically altering the hardware. The suspected manipulation refers to hardware. If EMS, guarded by high security, can be tampered with physically, even ballot boxes which Rahul, Maya and Kejriwal want can also be. Always critical of the media, they have now suddenly become their admirers.
Social media now empower people to expose the lies of mainstream media. Obviously, both the hacking report and the zero vote story were politically motivated.
Reports also mentioned that BJP leaders like Subramanian Swamy raised doubts about EVM machines after the party’s defeat in the 2008 elections. They do not mention that the maverick leader was not supported by the BJP officially. In 2008-09 EVMs were new and people – even Advani and Swami – were not so comfortable with advanced technology.
The Congress, then in power, and the Election Commuission of India (ECI) denied Hari Prasad’s charges. He was also arrested for stealing an EVM. In 12 constituencies of the previous Kerala Assembly elections and in the some in the recent Punjab Assembly polls, the ECI introduced VVPAT (voter verifiable paper audit trail system) for a trial. It also declared that all EVMs were being gradually being made VVPAT-compliant.
In VVPAT the voter gets a small receipt showing which party he/she voted for. So he/she is assured that the vote is cast for the intended candidate and not someone else. These receipts are then dropped into a box, so they cannot be taken out, breaching the secrecy of ballot, or ‘cashed’ from the candidates. In case of any dispute they can be counted.
The Bharat Electronics Limited, a public sector undertaking, makes the EVMs and must be constantly improving their design and functioning. They have been tried in thousands of booths so far and any problem found would have been attended to. The EVMs , kept under tight security, are electronically protected and their seal is signed by representatives of all parties. The ECI says they cannot be tampered with.
Still politicians cast doubts on them. “If I win, they are right. If I lose they are rigged.”
After all this Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called upon tech startups to device ways to prevent tampering of the EVMs. A critic of EVMs said the Indian elections were “not the purest form of election” and the PM not the “purest person in the world”. He chose to call them liars but believes what Subramanian Swami said years ago, thinks that the ECI and BEL did nothing to correct faults if any and accepts that the Dynasty, ‘Behenji’ and Krazywal are great saints born to save the country from the evil of a monster called Modi!.
The Parliament’s Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances and Law and Justice has decided to invite experts from India and abroad to examine the EVMs to see of they can be tampered with. The committee received many petitions doubting the EVMs’ reliability.
If intellectuals can think so, no wonder Lalu Prasad Yadav says the EVM is rigged because it is made in the Gujarat unit of BEL! Are all Biharis then JD(U) agents? Are Biharis morons to tolerate such people? Perhaps they will reply in the next election … on EVMs.
I have seen rigging in Bihar. I have seen polling booths (which had a separate box for each candidate in 1967) with ‘agents’ wearing different party badges but collectively working for the Congress and letting a 16-year-old vote. Villages were surrounded by police, dalit voters stopped and their votes put in one box, with a few distributed among others to show the voting was free and fair.
Being concerned about impartial elections is great. It is not great, however, to believe that only a dynasty is always right.