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EVMs again!

EVMs again!

Right from the time when self-declared 'cyber hacker' Syed Shuja alleged that EVMs in India are rigged, apprehensions around the same took the general psyche by the neck. EC's Technical Expert Committee had come out and refuted such claims while Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL) said he never worked for the EVM manufacturer as he had claimed. Sidelining Shuja and believing EC that our EVMs are tamper-proof and hence appropriate for use, Lok Sabha elections were robustly conducted. A massive democratic exercise concluded on May 19 with results due on May 23 and no mention, as such, of faulty EVMs. Even when controversies swirled around clean chits to candidates by EC over flouting of MCC or conflicts during campaigning, EVMs remained out of the news. Shuja's words meant nothing. His claims were nothing more than fiction tales. But what Shuja mentioned was not impossible. It was simply not feasible. Military-grade frequency signals cannot be received by so many EVMs without an added antenna and EC's Technical Expert Committee allayed the same to the public. However, our faith in EC made us move ahead with the polling. That was, perhaps, the only EVM-related concern in the minds of masses. However, soon, a collective of opposition parties brought up the issue of VVPAT count which would ascertain the result of EVMs and make the electoral counting more transparent. Their demand for a 50 per cent VVPAT count was reduced to five EVMs per constituency by the apex court in its verdict and EC cited a delay of few hours in counting due to same. The opposition parties were still not satisfied and hence they moved to EC again in bid to increase the VVPAT counting. In theory, it only made sense of what they demanded since the very point of VVPAT slips was to ensure that EVMs were working and not rigged. Five polling stations per constituency as per EC would delay the result by hours whereas as 50 per cent of VVPAT cross-check would delay the results by 4-5 days. There was no one who objected to such delay but the apex court nevertheless dismissed the plea and allowed cross-checking only for five polling stations per constituency. Going by what is at stake – five years of a government – the demand was not baseless and delay in result hurt no one, except BJP maybe. The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a PIL seeking 100 per cent matching during the counting of votes. The opposition parties also planned to meet EC to demand the tallying of VVPAT slips with EVM figures in an entire Assembly constituency in case a discrepancy is found in any of the polling booths. This new demand makes sense and it may also be in the interest of millions who eagerly wait for the outcome. The recent social media splashes of EVMs being transported without security and arriving later than others only aggravates our apprehensions of even the remotest possibility of rigging. Unsecured vehicles carrying what seemed like reserve EVMs arriving at the strong room was seen in videos from Chandauli and Jhansi while Gazipur had a small spat between SP-BSP candidate and local police over EVM watch. EC on Tuesday was quick to quash away these allegations and asserted that arguments of discrepancies in handling and storage of EVMs in some districts of UP were baseless and "frivolous". This entire controversy surrounding EVMs only arose after conclusion of the final phase but since it did, inquisitiveness pesters a thought whether the same occurred between other phases and did not make it to social media or press and hence missed the public eye? EC's press release asked us to not panic and keep faith even as our faith was blemished upon hearing the non-inclusion of Election Commissioner Lavasa's dissent note over clean chits to Modi-Shah which forced him to miss future full commission meetings.

Being the constitutional body that EC is, our faith rests heavily on it as it always has. But such allegations are to be looked into and justified before masses not debunked as it is and, in turn, demand faith. As opposition parties rush to discuss post-poll coalition and VVPAT cross-check in case of discrepancy, India rests its faith in the Election Commission and its personnel to give us an unadulterated result. Whoever accedes to power will take India forward because we chose them, and not conspiracies. The fact that EVM tampering concerns were raised right before results only add to our apprehensions which had been spiked with Shuja's allegations. Now Shuja's allegation may be out of the question but EVM has again found its place in the centre of the controversy, and it does not augur well for the largest functional democracy.

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