oppn parties Neo-Luddism - Congress Wants Ballot Papers

News Snippets

  • In reply to a question in Parliament, the government says it is empowered to lawfully intercept, monitor or decrpyt information stored in a computer resource in the interest of sovereignty or integrity of India
  • Police stop a 12-year old girl on her way to the Sabarimala shrine
  • In Karnataka, the JD(S) indicates that it might support the BJP government if it falls short of numbers after the bypolls
  • Congress pips the BJP in local body elections in Rajasthan, winning 961 wards to the BJPs 737
  • After Airtel and Vodafone-Idea, Jio also indicates that tariffs will be raised from December
  • Sources in Shiv Sena say that they might revive the alliance with the BJP if it offers the 50:50 deal
  • A miffed Sanjay Rout of the Shiv Sena says that it will take "100 births" to understand Sharad Pawar
  • Mobile operators Vodafone-Idea and Airtel decide to raise tariffs from next month
  • Sharad Pawar meets Sonia Gandhi and says more time needed for government formation in Maharashtra
  • Justice S A Bobde sworn in as the 47th Chief Justice of India
  • Supreme Court holds hotels liable for theft of vehicle from their parking area if parked by valet, says "owner's risk" clause is not a shield from such liability
  • Finance Minister says she is receiving feedback from many sectors that recovery is happening as there is lower stress
  • Sabarimala temple opens, but police bar the entry of women below 50 years
  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman says Air India and BPCL to be sold off by March
  • Media person Rajat Sharma resigns as DDCA president
Two Muslim litigants in Ayodhya refuse to accept the Supreme Court order, say review petition might be filed
oppn parties
Neo-Luddism - Congress Wants Ballot Papers

By Sunil Garodia

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.
Coming just days after the BJP’s by-poll debacles in UP and Bihar and weeks after the harrowing time it faced in Gujarat, the Congress’ political resolution at its on-going plenary session calling for return to voting through paper ballots and discontinuing the use of electronic voting machines (EVM) is definitely a Neo-Luddite suggestion. If EVMs were so easy to manipulate and doctor, would the BJP have suffered such reverses? The Congress says there are apprehensions among political parties and the people over the misuse of EVMs in order to manipulate the outcome. It also says that "to ensure the credibility of the electoral process, the Election Commission should revert to the old practice of using ballot papers as most major democracies have done."

But is there any evidence of systematic and large-scale tampering of EVMs? Generally, it is seen that losers become cry babies. Yet, when they win, then they are happy. So where is the consistency in their stand? Obviously, there is nothing seriously wrong with the EVMs (barring the odd machine that malfunctions or when things go awry due to human error). This is proved by the regular change of governments, both in the states and at the Centre. To make matters more transparent, the Election Commission has, upon the demand of the opposition parties, introduced voter verified paper audit trail. This makes the process even more robust and definitely more foolproof.

If EVMs were indeed the rigging weapon they are now being made out to be no ruling party would have ever lost a single election. Further, if EVMs were rigged to manipulate results, there would have been popular uprisings as the people are the first to know if results have been altered. For instance, the mood in West Bengal was decidedly anti-Left in 2011. If the Left front had rigged the EVMs and altered the results in its favour, one is sure there would have been a huge and ugly popular uprising against it. Arvind Kejriwal keeps on harping about the supposed rigging of EVMs. But if that was indeed the case, the BJP would not have allowed his party to capture an overwhelming 67 out of 70 seats in the 2015 elections in Delhi.

Instead, what the opposition parties are now suggesting – going back to paper voting – is definitely a tried, tested and rejected process as it involved use of muscle power to capture polling booths and other large-scale manipulations. What works for major democracies of the world does not work for India simply because the goon culture makes a mockery of the election process. In the 1980’s, one was witness to gun-toting goons in Kolkata who captured booths and prevented genuine voters from exercising their franchise. People used to be afraid to venture out of their homes on polling day. One is sure it was the same in many other places in the country. But ever since EVMs were introduced, things have become decidedly better.

Hence, instead of taking India back, the opposition must suggest ways to improve electronic voting. In fact, with technology throwing up so many new avenues, India can even think of allowing voting over the internet through mobile phones and computers. Obviously this will involve at least a three stage identification and verification process, but once the technology is in place, it will be a foolproof system. The results will also be tabulated instantly. There are many other ways being explored around the world. If exercising the franchise is the right and also the duty of the citizens, then we must work to make the process easy, transparent and trustworthy. Paper voting does not score high on any of the three parameters.