India won't go back to ballots …This is EC's stand: CEC Arora
New Delhi: Lamenting that electronic voting machines (EVMs) are being "tossed like a football" in political discourse, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora on Thursday said that the Election Commission (EC) is striving to ensure that incidents of EVM malfunctions are reduced to a minimum. "We are not satisfied. We are moving forward to ensure that there are not even a few incidents (of malfunction)," he said.
A former bureaucrat, Arora was appointed election commissioner on August 31, 2017. He succeeded Om Prakash Rawat as Chief Election Commissioner On December 1 this year after he retired.
Arora said that tampering and malfunctioning are two separate things. "Tampering shows mala fide (intention). Malfunction can happen," he said. There were 1.76 lakh polling booths in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Telangana, where Assembly elections were held recently, Arora said.
There were very few incidents of EVM malfunctioning (less than 1 per cent) of the total machines deployed, he said. A total of 1.76 lakh EVMs were deployed — one machine per booth — during the elections. He said that the poll panel is continuously working to ensure that there are not even a few incidents of malfunction. "EVM is only a machine which records votes. Can it be programmed? No. A polite but emphatic no," he asserted.
He said that while the 2014 Lok Sabha elections had one result, the Assembly elections in Delhi held soon after had an entirely different result. The recent Assembly polls in the five states had different results and even the by-polls held earlier had different results, he pointed out.
"If the result is 'X', it is okay. But if it is 'Y' then the EVM is faulty," he said, responding to allegations by political parties on the reliability of EVMs. Responding to a query, Arora said that while political parties were free to target the EC and question its impartiality as it was their "right" as an important stakeholder, he said that he was "hurt" that the EVM was being "tossed like a football".
Political parties are an important stakeholder after voters, he said. The CEC said that it is the stand of the Election Commission that the country will not go back to the ballot paper. "I am reiterating the stand today," he said. The Election Commission will hold the 2019 general election under Arora. Besides the Lok Sabha polls, Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, Odisha, Maharashtra, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim too are scheduled to be held next year.
Arora also said that everyone in the Election Commission would continue to put their best foot forward to meet the expectations of all the stakeholders, strictly in consonance and in conformity with the vision and ideals of the Constitution. "We are also aware that elections to the Lok Sabha are in the offing. The internal preparations for this actually started some time back. We will try to meticulously prepare on all fronts."