Truth about UP civic polls : Did BJP win more seats with EVMs and lesser with Ballot Paper

It might be time to run a remixed version of the hit track from The Jacksons’ from the 1970s:

Don’t blame it on the sunshine 
Don’t blame it on the moonlight
Don’t blame it on good times
Blame it on the EVM

The UP Civic polls results are out and people are out to discredit BJP’s performance. After the results, the first question on EVMs was raised by an independent candidate, which did not seem to hold much ground. Now, politicians from national parties have joined the chorus. The theme has been: BJP’s win percentage is much higher in seats where EVMs were used and drops drastically in areas where Ballot papers were used. There are no direct allegations but nudge-nudge-wink-wink allusions point to EVM fraud. Take a look at a few tweets:

From Mr Zero Loss:

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From the AAP MLA who brought a toy EVM to the Delhi assembly to show it can be hacked:

From Nitish babu’s estranged friend:

Another AAPian known to lie:

From the youth icon who got a thrashing earlier this year:

BSP’s Mayawati too claimed that if Lok Sabha polls for 2019 were held on ballot papers, BJP would not win. Figures may keep changing, but the assertion remains the same: EVM’s have been manipulated to make BJP win, and this BJP magic fails as soon as Ballot papers are introduced. So what is the truth?

Firstly it is important to know why these percentages are being thrown around. Elections for 16 nagar nigams (municipal corporations) were held through EVMs, while ballot papers were used for simultaneous polls to 198 nagar palika parishads (municipalities) and 439 nagar panchayats. All the figures are based on this demarcation.

Based on the data on the State Election Commission’s site, BJP’s win percentage in nagar nigams is 45.69%, whereas in nagar palikas and nagar panchayats combined, the win percentage drops to 15.36%. Till here, most of the above claims are true. But then how have other major parties fared in a similar comparison?

The above data can be understood as below: The columns marked in yellow shows the party-wise performance in areas where EVMs were used. The columns marked in green show the party-wise performance in areas where Ballot papers were used. And the last column in blue shows the percentage decrease in win percentage when we move from EVM areas to Ballot papers areas. Invalid and provisional results, as per the Election commission’s site (36 in total out of 12647) have been ignored.

BJP’s win percentage comes down from 46.39% to 15.55%, by around 66%. But Sibal’s Congress’ win percentage comes down by even more i.e 67%, from 8.37% to 2.74%, when we compare EVM results with Ballot paper results. Similarly, win rates of SP & BSP have also come down by 39% and 57% respectively.

All in all, as one compares performances of parties, all parties have fared significantly worse in areas using ballot papers. What does this prove? Did all parties hack into EVMs which gave them better results in areas using EVMs? Did BJP tamper with the EVMs to pass on some good results to its competitors as well?

The above data will make sense when we see the last line of the puzzle: The performance of independents:

See the last row (in italics). While independents had just a 17.03% win rate in areas using EVMs, they won a whopping 66.22% seats in areas using Ballot papers. A more sensible reading would be: Independents fared badly in Nagar Nigams, but thrived in Nagar Palikas and Nagar Panchayats, while all parties perished in such areas. An even more nuanced reading would be: Parties performed better in urban areas whereas they failed in semi-urban and rural areas, where Independents ruled the roost.

This brings us to the second point: While people are comparing EVM results vs Ballot paper results, they are comparing results in urban areas with those in semi-urban and rural areas, which is like comparing apples with oranges. Voting patterns and sensibilities are markedly different in urban and rural areas, and simplistic comparisons fail to grasp this. Instead of looking at conspiracy theories like EVM fraud, these trends indicate that party affiliation matters more to the urban voter whereas rural votes may be more personality driven than party driven.

While such analysis shows the obvious reasons for the fluctuation in win percentages, social media will be rife with such half-baked analysis as those peddled by the like of Akhilesh, Sibal, or AAP leaders. Media commentators often rue the lack of fact-checking when statements of politicians are reported. Will these same people take cognizance now?


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