Neo-Luddism - Congress Wants Ballot PapersComing just days after the BJPs 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."
By Sunil Garodia
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 1980s, 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.