Irresponsible Politics

EVMs are a positive election reform, they can be further improved through VVPAT

The results of an election should presumably serve as feedback for political parties. India’s politicians however seem to be outliers in this regard. The only message losers discern is that the outcome was influenced by tampered electronic voting machines (EVMs). A significant and positive reform in India’s election process has become a lightning rod for losers’ angst. Sadly , all major political parties have taken turns at playing this game.
Parties would do well to revisit India’s election experiences prior to widespread use of EVMs. Violence was common as parties used muscle power to seize booths and engage in ballot box stuffing. Furthermore, in tight contests results were vitiated as ballots that were ambiguously stamped would be declared invalid. These problems were overcome with the advent of EVMs and the level of violence associated with elections has substantially declined. Among other positive spin-offs are an increase in the speed with which the process can be completed and a control of costs. Overall levels of crime too may have declined, as parties no longer need to nurture armies of goons to influence the political process.

While the advent of EVMs undoub tedly represents a change for the better, there is justification for the demand that electronic votes leave a paper trail that is easier to audit should the vote be challenged later. In this context, it is welcome that Supreme Court yesterday asked government to respond early next month in a case where litigants want compliance with the apex court’s 2013 directive to introduce paper trail in EVMs.Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) is a system where a voter has the comfort of additional feedback. This will hopefully put an end to the unfortunate tendency of losers blaming the ballot box.

The Election Commission is undoubtedly one of India’s most effective institutions and deserves credit for conducting elections smoothly. It also needs support when it tries to introduce reforms.In this context, both government and opposition parties can help.Introducing VVPAT will enhance public confidence in elections and the government should release necessary resources for its introduction. The opposition can help by ending the long standing tradition of losing parties trying to undermine an election’s legitimacy with spurious allegations that EVMs were tampered.India’s political parties must be more responsible.

THK: Times of India

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