As elections are happening in different states, the EVM issue has once again come to the center stage.
By Rakesh Raman
The opposition political parties in India keep complaining about the possibility of election frauds on electronic voting machines (EVMs), which can be manipulated to change the election results.
But the Election Commission of India (ECI) – which is completely controlled by the government of Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi – ignores the opposition complaints and holds elections on EVMs and mostly Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wins. And the defeated opposition parties willy-nilly accept the election results and wait for the next elections.
As elections are happening in different states, the EVM issue has once again come to the center stage. Sitaram Yechury, General Secretary of Communist Party of India (Marxist) – CPI(M) – has written a letter to the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) about the malfunctioning of the EVMs and the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT). He also has raised the issue of electoral bonds which are mostly used by BJP to win elections with its money power.
In his letter dated March 22, Yechury has complained about the misuse of EVMs in the 2019 Lok Sabha election that BJP won and the impact of the electoral bonds and role of money power in elections. He added that several petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court on both these issues, but they continue to remain pending in the court.
Yechury has quoted a recent report released by a civil society organization, Citizens’ Commission on Elections (CCE), on the faulty functioning of the EVMs and the VVPAT system, drawing evidence from several domain experts – including those on cyber security – who have raised legitimate questions.
The CPI(M) leader writes that the credibility of the conduct of elections in an electoral democracy is almost exclusively dependent on the implementation and the actions of the regulatory body, which is the ECI. The Indian Constitution mandates and empowers the ECI with very wide powers under Article 324 to hold fair elections, but serious questions are being raised about the dubious role of the ECI in elections.
The letter adds that the credibility of the election process is based on transparency; and explanations provided by the ECI being verifiable. However, on both these counts, the response of the ECI, following the 2019 elections has been far less than adequate.
“We, on behalf of the CPI(M), had written to you on several occasions to address these concerns which met with little or no response,” Yechury laments in his letter. He urged the CEC to address the major vulnerability in the conduct of the elections on EVMs and VVPATs.
Regarding the issue of campaign finance, Yechury says that the introduction of electoral bonds has made corporate funding absolutely opaque. Although – according to Yechury – the ECI has admitted in the Supreme Court that it will be impossible for the ECI to track such an unaccounted flow of funds, the Supreme Court as usual ignored the issue.
As the Supreme Court is not working independently, it issues some casual notices to the government and election authorities but then keeps delaying the case, which gives undue advantage to Modi’s BJP.
According to reports, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear on March 24 a plea of NGO ‘Association For Democratic Reforms’ for restraining authorities from allowing the sale of fresh electoral bonds ahead of Assembly elections in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam, and Puducherry. But it is expected that the court will not take any decision that could harm BJP’s surreptitious maneuvers to collect money unscrupulously.
According to CPI(M), there are reports that a fresh round of electoral bonds are being issued from 1st April, 2021 and 52% of the total funding from all sources is going to BJP, outstripping the amounts received by all other political parties put together.
It is observed that Modi’s party BJP uses such ill-gotten money to mobilize hired crowds for election rallies, buy voters with money and gifts, purchase legislators in horse-trading deals, and employ mob armies of thugs who help BJP win fraudulently. The feeble complaints of opposition parties have no impact on the ECI and the complicit courts which favor BJP.
“Since the elections to five state assemblies have been already announced and campaigning is already underway, an urgent response would be imperative to set at rest the doubts in public minds. The credibility and the faith in the system are crucially dependent on transparency with which the ECI conducts itself,” Yechury said in his letter to the ECI.
But Yechury’s words will fall on deaf ears.
By Rakesh Raman, who is a national award-winning journalist and social activist. He is the founder of a humanitarian organization RMN Foundation which is working in diverse areas to help the disadvantaged and distressed people in the society.
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