As Complaints of EVM Tampering, Electoral Malpractices Pour In, SC Directives on Paper Trail Verification Need Urgent Implementation

Cross party complaints have been received from UP, Nashik, Pune and Mumbai showing alarming levels of electoral manipulation

VVPAT Machine

In the recent concluded local elections in Maharashtra, serious accusations have been made about tampering with the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). Following the results of the District Panchayat and Mahanagar Palika polls, several complaints to the state election commission have alleged that EVMs had been hacked. The fraud has gone to inexcusable levels: in many places, a large difference has been noticed between the number of voters registered and the votes counted.
In Mumbai, it has been found that one candidate had secured '0' votes. In this context candidates of the respective parties have registered complaints before the Election Commission. Several parties across the political spectrum, the Shiv Sena, the NCP, the MNS, and the Congress candidates have lodged complaints about an alleged fraud within the EVMs.
Besides, tampering has also been alleged with the electoral rolls. During the polls of Mumbai Mahanagar Palika, 11 lakh voters lost their right to vote at the last moment, as their names were missing. Many of these were from underprivileged sections of society.
For example, in one ward of Nasik town it so happened that the number of votes cast were more than the total number of voters registered. In Yeravada ward of Pune, the number  of voters registered were 33289, but during counting votes cast were found to be 43324 (at least 10,000 higher!). In one area, after issuance of confirmation letter of victory under the article 194, a victory procession was taken out. Later on after one hour, the victorious candidate was told that the counting of one EVM was still pending. In that EVM all the votes cast were found in favour of BJP candidate and suddenly the results were overturned and the BJP candidate was declared as winner.
In the Sakinaka area of Mumbai also, one Independent Candidate Shrikant Sirsat secured '0' votes. He has maintained in his complaint that even when his family and neighbours had cast votes in his favour, the outcome was a Zero vote! In Nagpur also, NCP has raised a clear demand for inquiring into the ‘EVM scam.’ In Amaravati town, all the parties have together gotten together and called for a 'Bandh' against the misuse of EVMs. The protest received a good response. In Kolhapur, one former Judge of the High Court, B. G. Kolse Patil is on record saying that that as there is tampering with EVMs, and the necessity of a verifiable paper trail machine is inevitable. If it is not possible then a demand for 'back to ballot' should be made.
Similar incidents of election-related fraud have allegedly taken place in several locations in the course of the recent elections to five Indian States as learned from reports in the media. BSP supremo, Mayavati and all other opposition parties have levelled accusations alleging large scale irregularities committed through the EVMs in the recently concluded Assembly elections to the state of U.P. The accusations are serious, alleging as they do that through this alleged EVM tampering, the state election results have been actually manipulated.
The current outcry against EVMs this time being articulated by BSP’s Mayawati and Aam Admi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal have been echoed by senior BJP leaders in the past. In 2009, it was the BJP's Lal Krishna Advani, and Dr. Subramaniam Swami who had expressed severe distrust and doubts against EVMs and party's chief spokesman G.V.L. Narsimha Rao had even authored a book on the subject.
Many computer experts have opined that since the EVMs function through computer programming, this programming can be manipulated by hackers with requisite skills.  Technical experts assigned the job of keeping a vigil on the security of the EVMs also believe that it is not difficult for EVMs to be hacked.
In the year 2009 it was the BJP, then in the Opposition that had, accompanied with electronic experts, initiated a campaign across the length and breadth of the country, attempting to prove that EVMs can be tampered with. It was in response to this robust movement, that carried on till 2014, that a direction was obtained from the Supreme Court (SC): to implement the 'Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail' (VVPAT).  This needs to be urgently implemented. The Paper Trail is such a method, which allows a voter to obtain permission to verify whether his/her vote fell to the candidate that he voted for. This is how it works: After the voter casts his vote, a printed sheet comes out of the EVM which reveals, to him/her, who he/she had voted for. The Supreme Court (SC) has now, again, in 2017, — opining that for free and fair polls, the VVPAT is essential– issued one more directive to the Election Commissioner to ensure its implementation.
Through this Paper Trail Method of Verification, the sanctity and transparency of the electoral process can be maintained; and the credibility of the EVM machines can also be ensured. During voting a cross-check related to accuracy can be maintained and in the event of any controversy, through the manual counting of votes, any dispute can be resolved. For free and fair elections, such a Paper Trail is inevitable. By doing so, the trust of the people, the Indian voters on the EVMs can be regained.
Will the Election Commission responsible for the deliverance of free and fair elections implement the SC directive on the Paper Trail? Before complete faith on the electoral process is shaken, all concerned citizens and the organisations must make intense efforts for the compulsory implementation of the Paper Trail. Our demand must be that the Gujarat Assembly Polls must take place, in 2017 with the fall-back Paper Trail Method firmly in place. This is the need of the hour.



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