Replace EVMs With Paper Ballots: Opposition Partiesby Opinion Express August 4, 2018 0 comments
The Opposition is in discussion with the EC to consider replacing EVMs with paper ballots to prevent tampering.
On the face of it, the plan of the 17 Opposition parties including the Congress to meet the Election Commission and press for the re-introduction paper ballots alleging Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) can/have been tampered with by the ruling dispensation is a classic example of neo Luddite behaviour. This move has also been described variously as a case of sour grapes, ignorance of the Constitutional mandate for the conduct and monitoring of elections which is with the EC and expressly not the Government of the day and a political manoeuvre reflecting sheer desperation as the Narendra Modi juggernaut threatens to flatten them electorally. All the above are correct in large measure. But there is something deeper underlying this move. The fact is that a large section of the Opposition has decided to run a campaign against the BJP in all spheres of political activity based on questioning its intent. And intentionality, as anyone who knows anything about the law, is notoriously difficult to prove. Their line of attack is clear, the EVM versus paper ballot issue has just been added to this list. It may, however, may just give the BJP the platform it needs to bring all the issues raised by the Opposition to attack its intent together and debunk them at one go. Nothing irritates voters more than sore losers.
Those who remember how in the 1980s a small town in Haryana called Meham became the symbol of the violence and ballot-stuffing associated with paper ballots would also remember the popular demand that arose as a consequence for electronic voting machines to be used. Across vast swathes of India from 1947 till the purchase of EVMs in 1989-90 and their introduction in 1999, paper ballots were stamped by the sack-full by toughs in favour of their candidate of choice; vote-rigging was easier, not more difficult, for the locally powerful. The BJP is sure to argue that this is precisely the reason nearly all regional parties save Biju Janata Dal and Telangana Rashtra Samithi are in favour of paper ballots.
For the Election Commission, which the Opposition is to approach next week with its demand and which has repeatedly and in a transparent manner thrown upon EVMs to hackers to prove their reliability, it’s a no-brainer to continue with them unless demonstrable proof of their widespread manipulation is provided. The cost and logistical factor too will be of great import to the EC. The long-term savings by using EVMs despite initial outlay being high — the first batch purchased in 1989-90 cost Rs 5,500 per unit and the additional buys in 2014 came at Rs 10,500 per unit — are not insubstantial when compared to the cost of production and printing hundreds of crores of ballot papers. Logistics regarding the collection, transportation and storage of ballot papers and the many more officials, who will need to be reimbursed, needed to count them by hand must also be taken into account. Bogus voting reduces substantially with EVMs because the vote is recorded only once. And with the decision to ensure voter-verified paper audit trail or VVPAT-enabled EVMs are deployed as widely as possible, doubts should be laid to rest, unless of course those opposing EVMs now are happy to step down from the elections they won were not conducted with paper ballots.
Courtesy: The Pioneer