EVM rigging: now SP backroom boys suggest abnormal voting behaviour
The Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) resounding victory in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls has unnerved regional players like the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP).
While BSP supremo Mayawati openly came out with allegations suggesting that electronic voting machines were rigged, and said the party would move the Supreme Court, the SP is still in limbo about if it should take a similar stand.
“We have received complaints from a lot of constituencies, but that may not be enough to convincingly suggest any foul play,” says an SP leader.
The leader says that the party is taking stock of the loss, and holding meetings with leaders from different regions. And while these local leaders are coming up with details of discrepancies, SP chief and former CM Akhilesh Yadav has decided to wait and watch. He may, in due course, come up with a demand that either the Election Commission go back to the use of the ballot papers, or at least use Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT)-equipped EVMs, so that the voters at least know where their vote has gone.
“I don’t think we will go to court, since the BSP has done it already, but we are trying to ascertain if the evidence of abnormal voting is good enough to at least convince our supporters and sympathisers of some wrongdoing,” the SP leader says. “We do not want to sound like bitter losers by just raking up the issue. It will hurt the party's perception in the longer run.”
In his press conference on the day of the results, Akhilesh himself had mentioned how Mayawati had raised the issue of EVMs, but had steered clear of making any allegations, saying he would wait for the booth-level analysis.
“There are at least 145 constituencies where we have found abnormal behaviour of voters,” says an SP strategist who was directly involved in the collation of data.
He tried to buttress his claims with the example of a constituency which again voted for an SP MLA – Kundarki in Moradabad. “If you see the voting behaviour in the last few elections, including during the Modi wave of 2014, the BJP never crossed the 65,000 vote mark. But this time, it has polled almost 99,000 votes. This is not possible if the Muslims were not voting for the BJP, which looked unlikely in all the surveys we did leading up to the election.”
Mahasi constituency is another example which the SP's backroom boffins cite, trying to push the claims of what they are terming “abnormal voting behaviour”. The BJP won the seat this time with an impressive margin of more than 58,000 votes. Its candidate, Sureshwar Singh, had polled just over 38,000 votes in the 2012 elections, when he lost to the BSP's candidate Krishna Kumar Ojha by less than 2,000 votes.
The SP leader says the party is receiving multiple complaints, where the candidates claim they have been shortchanged. “There is a booth in a constituency in Kanpur which has 2,000 votes, out of which 1,600 are Muslim voters. Even there, 1,200 votes have gone to the BJP,” the leader claims, adding how it has come as a shock to the SP candidate.
“There are 87 constituencies where Muslim and Yadav votes are enough for a win, and another 34 constituencies where just the Muslim and Jatav votes could take the candidate beyond the majority mark. SP has won just 24 out of the 87 constituencies, while the BSP has won just three out of those 34 seats,” the SP strategist says. “This needs to be investigated, since we have been studying the voting behaviour for the last three-four elections now.”
A local functionary of the BSP in Banda, who works closely with senior leader Nasimuddin Siddiqui, was similarly astonished. “There are almost seven to eight Muslim majority mohallas in Banda town, but even there the BJP has got sizeable votes.”
But, it is quite possible that Muslims voted for the BJP. The saffron party has made similar claims when it said that an overwhelming number of Muslim women voted for it over the issue of Triple Talaq.
The BSP functionary, however, is not convinced that the women may have actually digressed from the normal voting preferences. “The women in this region follow the elders in the house on whom to vote,” he says.
Clear the air
SP's Rajya Sabha MP Javed Ali Khan asks: “When there is an air of suspicion, why don't the Election Commission and the government clear the air?”
He suggests that the BJP must cast its mind back to the years when its own leaders, including LK Advani and others, had suggested that EVMs were not foolproof. “And it was (BJP Rajya Sabha MP) Subramanian Swamy who had moved court on the issue,” Khan says.
The fact that the Central government is yet to clear funds for the VVPAT machines has given the Opposition enough ammunition to attack the government, claiming that it is against transparency.
“Why is the government so reluctant to release funds for VVPAT machines, even three years after the SC order?” Khan asks. “Out of 15 lakh VVPAT machines which are needed, only 30,000 are available with the ECI, and another 30,000 are expected in the next few months,” he points out.
That the Election Commission of India has come out with a detailed press release on how EVMs are fool-proof and nobody is yet to come out with a demonstration that they could be rigged has seemingly not helped matters.
One must expect more fireworks on the issue, since Mayawati has decided to move court. The SP, too, may come out openly on the issue once the booth analysis is done.
But it seems to be high time the Central government heeds the ECI’s demand for VVPAT machines, and blunts the Opposition's attack.