The electronic voting machines (EVMs) will be opened today to reveal the secrets they hold. There can be no shadow cast on the polling and counting process.
The people have voted with faith that not only is their vote secret, but that the machine has correctly stored their choice, and this has not been tampered with. The Election Commission of India has not just the task to tally the votes that have been recorded by each machine and declare the results, but convince the people of India that the EVMs used in the elections have not been tampered with in any manner.
Even on the eve of counting day, the oppostion parties raised concerns over reports of alleged tampering of EVMs and asked the Election Commission to ensure transparency in counting. A statement from no less a person than former President Pranab Mukheree asking the ECI to put to rest all the speculation surrounding the machines gave the opposition parties a further boost. Mukherjee’s statement came as videos of alleged EVM tampering went viral on the social media. As verifying social media messages and videos is always difficult, it is now upon the ECI to convince the people of India that the country has had a free and fair election and that the EVMs have not been tampered with. Merely dismissing the allegations as frivolous and unfounded will not convince the people.
During the counting process, slips from five randomly selected VVPATs of assembly segments will be taken up for counting and tallying with the EVMS. This is meant to reassure the voters that the EVMs are safe. But, if there are discrepancies found in any one EVM and VVPAT, how does the ECI clear reservations from the people’s minds that this cannot have happened with other machines too? There can be no room for doubt in the election process. Will then the paper trail of all VVPATS in the assembly segment be taken up, or should the paper slips of the entire Lok Sabha constituency is counted?
The oppostion is, however, not satisfied. The demand to increase the tallying of the paper trail votes with the results that the EVMs offer has been renewed. With the number of allegations of tampering being made, there is the fear that the EVMs could be faulty. It’s been a battle between the opposition parties and the ECI, but would these same parties, should they assume power do what is necessary to restore absolute confidence in the people that the EVMs and the VVPATs are safe?
The political debate on this aside, EVMs have been a major source of discussion this election. India is one of the few countries in the world that uses the machines for the polling process. Most countries still use the ballot paper. Any electoral reforms have to relook at re-introducing the ballot paper and also reducing the time period taken for polling. The seven phases spread for over month, and then a three-day break between the last date of voting and the counting day, leads to a rise in specualation of tampering with the EVMs. It is imperative that the entire poll process is reduced to at least less than a month, which will also ensure that the political narrative remains consistent for much of the process.
As the former President has said, the people’s mandate is sacrosanct, it cannot be manipulated by anybody, and there cannot be an iota of doubt cast on it. It is now for the ECI to ensure that this mandate is solely that of the people. It is for the ECI to convince all the people that there has been no manipulation. Along with the party that wins the polls, the people too should feel like victors. Didn’t the ECI ask people to vote fearlessly? Well they did, it is for the ECI to now do its bit.