The recent unbelievable results of general elections shocked the nation. The shock was so intense that even the wining party, the BJP, was left stunned and did not celebrate its victory. There was no public display of triumph or euphoria on the streets by its members anywhere in the country. Even the supporters of the winning candidates did not distribute sweets. Remember how the RSS had distributed sweets when Bapu, Father of Nation, was killed? TV channels, controlled by and loyal to the RSS, had a hard time collecting visuals of celebrations.
The reason was that even the winners had not expected such a large victory and did not believe the results. They were also scared that there could be a public outcry against the results. Unlike Latin American countries, we are tolerant people. We tolerate lies, bigotry, corruption, injustice, oppression, inequality, illiteracy, demonetisation and oppressive GST, provided those in power commit the crimes. It is quite beside the point that we do not tolerate the weak, the minorities, the Dalits and the women whenever they rise to ask for simple human rights.
Our collective behaviour is also guided by the same characteristics. ‘Take the path of least resistance towards those who have grabbed the power’, was amply displayed by the opposition parties. The meek voices raised against the results and the EVM soon died out, it was left to civil society organisations to deal with the peoples’ anger against EVM. The opposition got busy in discussing ‘Apne Karmon ka phal’ and had no time to discuss and probe the issue of how the votes were stolen during these elections.
We should not forget that the RSS and the BJP were the first to oppose the use of EVMs in elections and raised doubts of manipulation. It was a RSS pracharak who wrote the first book against the EVM and called the ‘EVM a threat to Indian Democracy’. LK Advani wrote the preface. Their new-found love for EVMs is no older than 2012.
The trust deficit
On the issue of EVMs, as I have written earlier, the people of the country are divided into three categories. First, there are those who have lost all trust on EVMs and openly say that our votes are getting stolen. Then there are those who have lost trust but are scared of the return of the booth capturing era of ballot papers. Finally, there are those who believe that there is no problem with EVMs.
As, both experiential and hard evidence is piling up that EVMs are being tampered with, the percentage of those who want EVMs to be removed and want to get ‘back to ballot’ is increasing at a fast pace.
Reportedly, the chip is not OTP (One Time Programmable). If this is indeed so, then the Election Commission of India is either technologically challenged or has deliberately lied to the nation and the Supreme Court.
The ECI has always claimed that the programme cannot be read or tampered with because the chip supplied by Japan and USA are OTP. If the chip has flash memory and it’s not OTP, then technological vulnerability of the EVM increases exponentially. The evidence that the results of 271 out of 273 machines, put on the website of the ECI, did not match is a glaring example of EVM-meddling which needs serious investigation by an independent agency.
Who will trust the ECI which, instead of giving valid explanation, promptly removed the results from its website? There are reports that original unique number of EVMs that were allotted to booths did not match with the machines that were stored in the strong rooms and were finally used for counting. The numbers of such mismatch, quoted in various media reports, are much beyond the numbers, which can substantially influence the national election results. I have pulled these examples from a heap of evidences that is growing in size every day.
Most voters in India do not understand or bother about hard evidence, it is the gut feeling, the unsubstantiated experience and the gradual loss of trust which is most important. In any society, when the voter loses trust in the election process, democracy is harmed irrevocably.
In India today, the EVM has become a weapon of trust destruction. It is no more a technical issue, it is a political one now, and the irony is that political parties are not yet ready to take it seriously. The opposition refuses to go into protest mode, they are still debating pros and cons of issues. This weapon has already destroyed the trust of the masses in the ECI as well as honesty of the election process.
A defensive opposition
The opposition parties have continued to remain in a Catch-22 situation. Before the elections, they thought if the issue of EVMs was raised, the BJP would accuse them of conceding defeat in advance, and after the results were declared, they would be accused of doubting the people’s mandate. So, there is no ‘good’ or ‘appropriate’ time to raise the issue.
The depressed opposition after the election missed the bus once again. It was their duty to articulate and channelise peoples’ anger against the EVM as soon as results were declared. This was the biggest let down. The citizens are fast losing confidence on the ability of the opposition to safeguard their votes and prevent their votes from being stolen.
Who is scared of the EVM?
The ordinary citizens wait patiently for five years to teach a lesson to or reward a ruling party. In order to remain in power, the BJP has been using divisive politics to polarise the voters. But history has shown that often, people, cutting across religious, caste and regional boundaries, vote for secular issues such as lack of health facilities, unemployment, price rise and agrarian distress.
They are sacred because an anti-EVM movement and ‘back to ballot’ demand cannot be communalised. It has no caste angle. The issue has a sound secular base, which can mobilise people irrespective of their identity. The movement can take shape of a freedom struggle. And that scares those who, instead of joining our struggle for Independence, collaborated with the British.