EVM ‘Tampering’ Claims: Why EC Should’ve Allowed VVPAT Counting
Congress President Rahul Gandhi said EVM machines have “mysterious powers in Modi’s India”.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi said EVM machines have “mysterious powers in Modi’s India”.(Photo: Eshwar Gole/The Quint)

EVM ‘Tampering’ Claims: Why EC Should’ve Allowed VVPAT Counting

Most non-NDA regional parties along with the Congress party have raised grave allegations and doubts over EVM manipulation. While this is not the first time that doubts over the EVM mechanism have been raised, the sheer fact that there seems to be a United Opposition questioning it, demands serious introspection and response from the Election Commission.

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Dismissing it summarily as the case of Opposition parties crying foul in fear of a defeat, would only threaten the democratic fabric and faith in the election process. The need is for the Election Commission to categorically and transparently demonstrate, that the EVMs indeed ensure a free and fair election.

Also Read : No Changes in Counting Process, EC Rejects Demands Of Opposition

Issue isn’t Attached to Credibility of Chief Election Commissioner; It Needs Systemic Redressal

It must be understood that this is not about a politically-coloured attack on the Election Commission, but a serious questioning of the election process. While EVMs are at the core of the issue, concerns over the implementation of the model code of conduct, has certainly dented the credibility of the Commission.

The internal battle between the three election commissioners, and dissent of Commissioner Ashok Lavasa, only reiterate that there are serious issues in the institution (that is said to define our democratic process).

In this backdrop, the issue cannot be restricted to the individual credibility of a Chief Election Commissioner, but needs to be addressed at a systemic and technological level. The argument being that individual ECs may be subjective, but the process and the institution must be beyond any shadow of doubt.

Also Read : Elections 2019: EC to Decide On Oppn’s Demand For Matching VVPATs

Need To Prove That Those Who Write Software Code for EVMs, Can’t Control the Machines

One of the key issues that need to be explained by the Election Commission is the security of microchips and the software codes bunt into it in the EVMs. It is understood that blank microchips were imported, and the software codes burnt into them were coded in India.

Now, it’s important to transparently explain what kind of security vetting was carried out to ensure there are no hidden codes when the chips were imported.

How much was the involvement of India’s own security agencies in vetting these microchips, also needs to be explained clearly, and there needs to be a constant process of evolving security measures at the same pace as technology advances.

Secondly, there needs to be transparency on which software companies came up with the software codes that were burned into the chips, and what kind of security vetting was done on them. It may also be important to demonstrate, that those who were involved in the process of coding, cannot control or impact the functioning of these machines.

Also Read : 22 Oppn Parties Meet EC, Submit Memorandum Over EVM-VVPAT Tallying

What the EC Should Have Done to Restore Faith In Democratic Elections

While there is NO convincing evidence to prove that EVMs have been tampered with or their functioning compromised, there are doubts that have been raised, and to those who do not understand technology, the answer and demonstration has to be in a simple language. One way could be to constitute a large group of public-spirited technocrats and scientists to verify the process, and endorse the functioning of it. Such a group will have to consist of scientists and technical experts from varied fields – and with credibility, and not just from government agencies.

The doubts raised by the Opposition are extremely disconcerting, and it is important to convincingly restore the faith of all sections of the country in the election process. To reiterate again, while individual credibility of the election commissioners is extremely important, institutional credibility is more important.

The issue is not about ‘distrusting’ the EC as some political spokespersons have claimed. It is about questioning the process and seeking clarity, which is a democratic exercise. It is not enough for elections to be free and fair, it’s important that they are perceived to be free and fair by all sections of the polity.

Despite the Opposition’s request, the Election Commission on Wednesday, 22 May, refused to make any changes to the counting process. In the present situation, the Commission should have allowed the counting of VVPATs first, as an immediate response to the United Opposition’s concerns about the fairness of the election process. While this would perhaps have been time-consuming, it would have at least restored some of the Opposition’s faith in the institution – something that is crucial to the democratic process.

(The writer is an independent journalist. He can be reached @TMVRaghav . This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same)

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