The softening of the stand by the opposition parties on the issue of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) is a welcome change. Climbing down from their earlier demand for a return to the paper ballots, the representatives of several opposition parties met the Election Commission to demand changes to the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPATs) counting process during the general elections. Despite a plethora of grievances about their functioning, the EVMs represent triumph of technology and an enduring symbol of fairness of the electoral process. Till date, there has been no evidence of EVM-tampering. The administrative and technical safeguards instituted by the EC and EVM manufacturers have held steady since the introduction of the EVMs more than three decades ago. The opposition parties’ demand for a count of 50% of the VVPAT slips, as opposed to the current system of counting VVPAT slips in one randomly selected booth of each constituency, is impractical and unrealistic. On its part, the poll panel has stepped up implementation of the VVPAT, an adjunct to the EVM that allows for a paper trail for voting and later verification of the electronically registered mandate in the ballot unit of the EVM. VVPATs are now deployed in all Assembly and parliamentary elections with EVMs. In case of any doubts by the political parties, the VVPAT recounts can dispel them. While the technical glitches that the EVMs encounter during the polling must be addressed to everyone’s satisfaction, it would be regressive to demand a return to the ballot paper system.
The deployment of improved VVPAT machines will help curb glitches in the coming general elections. The allegation that EVMs can be hacked by Bluetooth or wi-fi is mischievous and misleading. The EVMs do not have such networking devices installed in them. Moreover, the machines are allotted to constituencies and polling stations in a random manner which would make their tampering virtually impossible. The EVMs, manufactured by ECIL and BEL under strict supervisory and security conditions, are fool-proof and comply with rigorous Standard Operating Procedures at every stage. The demand to revert to ballot paper system amounts to damaging the credibility of the poll panel which has a blemishless track record in conducting elections in a free and fair manner. The narrative being peddled by a section of the opposition that EVMs can be manipulated to favour the BJP is puerile and bereft of any logic and scientific reasoning. If the EVMs can be rigged in favour of the ruling party at the Centre, then one wonders why it lost the recent assembly elections in the Hindi heartland states. After suffering a drubbing in the recent Assembly elections, the Telangana Congress leaders had also raised the bogey of EVMs.