On Wednesday, Election Commission changed its strategy to put the EVM controversy to rest and took the battle back to the political parties and their leaders.
Soon after the results of Assembly elections,2017 were announced, leaders of many opposition parties blamed the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) for their defeat. Bahujan Samaj Party (chief) Mayawati was the first to have claimed that the EVMs used for polling in Uttar Pradesh were rigged in favor of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Mayawati’s concern found support from rival Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and soon several other leaders from the Congress, Left and AAP, including Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, started speaking in one voice — against the EC, against the EVMs and for the ballot paper. AAP chief Kejriwal as well as Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken even asked the EC to conduct the upcoming MCD election in Delhi with the ballot papers.
Opinions against the EVMs were also raised in the Parliament and a delegation of opposition leaders even met the EC to press for their demand. Not only this, EVM-baiters even took the matter to the Supreme Court.
Mayawati had even dared the BJP, which won 325 out of 403 seats in UP, to re-contest the election with paper ballots. In the Supreme Court, the BSP challenged the use of EVMs without voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT). Arguing for BSP in the apex court on Thursday, Congress leader and lawyer P Chidambaram said that both the hardware and software of the EVMs were “vulnerable” and could be tampered with. Hence, a paper trail was necessary for accuracy, he said.
Delhi CM Kejriwal openly confronted the EC on the EVM issue on many occasions. On April 4, Kejriwal had claimed he could prove tampering if given access to the voting machines for 72 hours. In a press conference on the day, Kejriwal had said tampering on a “massive scale” was found in Bhind, Madhya Pradesh. This allegation was in reference to reports that an EVM voted only for the BJP during a trial in front of journalists. Later, it was proven that the reports were concocted and blown out of proportion. However, Kejriwal didn’t stop here.
Apparently making the battle with the EC personal, Kejriwal even blamed the former of working only to ensure BJP victory. Almost similar barbs were also made by the Congress leaders, even as the EC continued to maintain from the very beginning that the EVMs cannot be rigged.
However, on Wednesday, EC changed its strategy to put the EVM controversy to rest and took the battle back to the political parties and their leaders. PTI reported senior EC sources as saying that the poll panel would invite political parties, experts, scientists and technocrats from the first week of May to an “open challenge” to hack the EVMs. It added that the “open challenge” would be there for a week or 10 days and at various levels.
Surprisingly, those opposing the EVMs didn’t openly welcome the EC challenge. Instead, played what they always do — politics. Kejriwal even questioned the authenticity of the news, asking why the EC was trying to “plant” such report. In a series of tweets, the Delhi CM said: “Why are these stories ascribed to “sources”? How credible are they? Why hasn’t EC issued any formal statement? Or is it just a plant? Has anyone actually seen any official statement from CEC? Am trying to get it since evening. Is this news correct?”.
However, Amarinder’s support to EVM was countered by another Congress leader Manish Tewari on Thursday. ““The Chief Minister of Punjab is a respected leader, but a few years back in 2010 and even in 2001, when he was the PCC president, he had himself demonstrated as to how the EVMs can be gerrymandered,” ANI quoted Tewari as saying.
When asked about the EC’s open challenge, Tewari left an absurd reply, advising the EC not to act as an advocate of the polling machines. Tewari told ANI: “It’s extremely unfortunate that the Election Commission has taken upon itself the role of being the lawyer for the EVMs. Democracy is based upon public trust. It is based upon confidence which elected representatives have in the process. So, therefore, if there is a lack of confidence in the EVMs, why is the Election Commission holding itself as the advocate of the EVMs? What is the difficulty if the ECI agrees to hold elections by paper ballot?”.
Interestingly, Congress’ Karnataka CM S Siddaramaiah on Thursday said the EVMs used in the two bypolls in his state were not tampered with. The response came after Congress won both bypoll seats in the state.
Politicians’ unwillingness to accept the EC challenge is baffling but their reluctance to accept the “open challenge” exposes what their real intentions are.