16 parties unite against 'EVM tampering': EC must act to restore their trust
Not since the protests against the land acquisition ordinance in 2014 have so many opposition parties rallied together behind one cause. Even demonetisation failed to bring so many parties on a common platform as the issue of EVM-tampering has.
Initially, after the culmination of recent round of assembly elections, only the Bahujan Samaj Party had alleged that EVMs had been tampered with.
Soon enough, the Samajwadi Party, the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party joined the chorus. Now, nearly the entire Parliamentary opposition has joined in, raising the level of seriousness of the issue.
The petition submitted to the Election Commission by 16 parties should come as a wake-up call to the EC because of the number of parties concerned about it, if nothing else. Rivals like SP-BSP and the All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) even buried their mutual differences to come together and sign the petition.
The document essentially urges the EC to suspend using EVMs in polls across the country till all allegations over their misuse are thoroughly probed and put to rest.
It refers to alleged cases of “malfunctioning and tampering of EVM machines” and says they have raised concerns about “the possibility of manipulating the electoral outcome”. This, we believe, can undermine the trust the people of India have in the integrity of the electoral process”, it adds.
The petition has stressed that the “trust deficit amongst political parties in” EVMs “is too deep seated and pervasive” and that it has “shattered the faith of the people in the fairness of the electoral process”. It goes on to add that “it is in the paramount interest of all political parties...that these allegations should be impartially investigated and the truth about the same be placed before the people of India.”
The petition demands that “till the issues of tampering and malfunctioning of the EVMs are addressed to the satisfaction of political parties, the forthcoming elections should be conducted under the old paper ballot system”. The parties have told the EC that using ballot paper continues to be “a permissible mode of balloting” and “the discretion of the EC under Section 61A should be exercised only after all issues, as raised above, are addressed”.
Consensus in democracy
The operative part in the entire communication is “consensus” among the political parties “against the EVMs and in favour of reverting to the original practice of voting by paper ballot”.
Democracy operates through consensus and if nearly the entire opposition is united behind a cause, then the case deserves a patient hearing, at least. The government too should urge the EC to consider the issues and the EC, in turn, should take steps to restore the credibility of EVMs soon.
The EC has reportedly agreed to hold an all-party meet to discuss the issue. That is a good beginning as it may mark the start of this process. The Commission, earlier, may have made a mistake in rejecting AAP's plea to tally EVM results with their paper trails in Punjab. The EC had advised AAP to file an election petition in the high court for the purpose, which has eventually led AAP to question EC's impartiality vehemently.
Impartiality is all that the EC has and if it were to lose the trust of the entire Opposition, that will be a dangerous day for Indian democracy. Former CEC S Y Quraishi, who is a feisty defender of EVMs, has also maintained that EC must answer all questions raised and repeatedly too, if required.
Thanks. But I am getting tired of the debate. ECI must come on all media & answer all questions- even repeatedly. People have right to know. https://t.co/yabATUVPMo— Dr. S.Y. Quraishi (@DrSYQuraishi) April 10, 2017
The faith in EVMs and in the impartiality of the EC must be restored and it is incumbent upon the Commission itself to take steps to ensure that at the earliest.