The bureaucracy in India has been bashed for most of the ills in Indian society. However, one of the areas where they are doing pretty well is in the Election Commission. From time to time they have evolved the system and come up with a framework where free and fair elections can be held in the country. One of the key parts of the fair election system in India is its unique innovation i.e. electronic voting machine.
The Congress plenary in its political resolution has proposed a return to the paper ballots in future elections to restore the ‘credibility of elections’. The reason for this may have dubious motives behind it. This claim would raise questions the validity of the results in previous elections where Congress won.
When the ECI called for an ‘EVM challenge’, asking all parties to demonstrate the faults of EVMs in June 2017, none were able to prove a fault in the device. The Congress has been making wild allegations on EVMs and politicising it. In December 2017, the party had linked EVM fraud with a hypothetical GSPC scam. The hit and run strategy of the party that demonstrates how irrelevant it is becoming day by day.
The GSPC scam, and allegations of EVM tampering may be connected. Take a look at Geo Global Resources — the biggest beneficiary of the scam—and an EVM microchip manufacturing company in the US, to understand the connection.https://t.co/HoCj7J8p30
— Congress (@INCIndia) December 14, 2017
In spite of the ridiculous and unfounded comments of the opposition, the BJP has not ruled out the proposal. The BJP general secretary has said that the party was ready to examine the proposal if there is a consensus on the matter. However, it would be a blunder if BJP were to accept the scrapping of one of the finest electoral reforms in the world.
I would like to remind Congress that the decision to shift from paper ballots to EVMs was taken because of a larger consensus. Now today, if every party think that we should return to paper ballots again, after due discussion, we can consider: Ram Madhav, BJP General Secretary pic.twitter.com/nqzf2zVOWQ
— ANI (@ANI) March 17, 2018
Chronology of steps before the introduction of EVMs
One would be curious to know the process by which this system came into being and evolved over the years. The Election Commission has recently brought out a status paper [pdf] on EVMs. It highlights the improvements, benefits and clarifies concerns if any on the EVM. The paper includes detailed safety provisions, legal aspects, international comparisons and an assessment of some recent controversies. The paper makes a strong defence of the EVM and assures that further improvements will also be accepted.
The brief history of EVM is summarised in the paper as below. A general consensus on the use of EVMs has arrived twenty years ago in 1998. The Congress party was an integral part of this process throughout. Today it is retracting its own support to EVMs. Probably this is due to its failure in successive assembly elections.
Benefits of using EVMs
The benefits of using EVMs and disadvantages of using paper ballots are well known. However, it is summarised by EC in its paper succinctly. The paper says (emphasis added) :
Before the introduction of the EVM, the ubiquitous Ballot papers were used to cast votes in the Indian Elections, with considerable success. The use of ballot papers was time-consuming, prone to malpractices like booth-capturing and ballot-box stuffing, a large number of invalid votes due to wrong/incorrect marking, subject to prolonged counting drills, more disputes and delayed result announcement besides being an ecologically straining and non-environment friendly method.
However, in comparison, EVM has substantial comparative and noticeable advantages.
- The manner of voting by EVMs is much simpler and voter-friendly as the voter is mere to press the button on BU (ballot unit) for casting his votes in favour of the candidate of his choice.
- Under the EVM system, there is no invalid vote, whereas in the ballot paper system a large number of ballot papers were invalidated and in some cases, the number of such invalid ballot papers was even more than the winning margin of the elected candidate.
- It is auditable, transparent, accurate, secure and helps reduce human error.
- It gives faster results in hours, which is particularly relevant in large countries like India having Constituencies of several hundred thousand voters, where counting used to take days and weeks earlier.
- In addition, EVM voting saves time, energy and money, not to speak of the millions of trees it saves in the process.
- Earlier crores of ballot papers were printed requiring hundreds of tonnes of paper for printing the same and the printing of ballot papers had to be undertaken in a large number of Government Presses for very long periods, involving hundreds of election officials in each constituency.
- Additionally, the innovative use of advancements in modern electronics for voting in the country provides for a fulsome endorsement of the creativity, inventiveness and pioneering acumen of the Indian society at large and serves to enhance the image and prestige of the country in the international arena.
Reverting to paper ballots would be a regressive step for Indian democracy
It is quite clear as to why parties like Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Congress and Aam Admi Party are afraid of EVM. EVMs enable the poorest of poor and most illiterate to vote in a simple manner. The device eliminates the possibility of many election frauds (like rigging and booth capture). If this system were to be discarded, these parties could exploit the openings in order to manipulate the elections. A pattern has emerged where opposition claims a victory for democracy when they win and blame EVM if they lose.
These parties want to take us back to an age where casteism, communalism and regressive agenda of divide and rule dominate. Therefore they will continue to oppose anything that is progressive. By aiming its guns against the EVM, the Congress party is displaying its desperation to return to power and discredit the device which was used in their election victory in 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha elections.