Assembly Elections and Sore Losers

As results of assembly election started coming out of electronic voting machines on 11th of Mar, 2017, there was a stunned silence in Television studios full of experts. Several exit poll results two nights before had predicted an outright victory for BJP or at least BJP will be ahead of others. Given the unpredictability of exit poll results, many had hoped that a strategic alliance between congress and Samajwadi Party (SP) might capture enough seats to either form government on its own or to cobble up a post poll alliance with Ms. Mayawati of Bahaman Samaj Party (BSP). So much so, chief of SP had given an interview to BBC Hindi news channel that he was not averse to seeking support from Ms. Mayawati’s party. Actual results when emerged, it appeared that out of 404 assembly seats contested, BJP has captured 325 seats, SP 56, BSP 19 seats. 

Winning and losing are part of democracy. One party is voted out and another one takes its place. Trick is how one accepts defeat. As it became clear that BSP had been decimated in the election, BSP chief came out and claimed electoral fraud. Ms Mayawati announced electronic voting machines (EVMs) were tampered with. Votes meant of BSP went to BJP. Mr. Akhilesh Yadav was gracious enough to congratulate the winners. Yet, Mr. Akhilesh Yadav accused, albeit indirectly, voters of rejecting his development plan. Mr Yadav commented “may be voters wanted Bullet Train (of his opponent), over the Lucknow to Agra expressway that he had got made“. In short, Mr. Yadav doubted sagacity of voters in making the choice they made. More recently, in a post election legislature party meeting, called to discuss election result, the discussion point was about moving away from EVM to paper ballots. Mr. Arvind Kejriwal of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was also not far behind. AAP was believed to be a strong contender to take charge of Punjab. AAP, however, came distant second to congress, barely above SAD-BJP alliance. After losing Punjab Mr. Kejriwal claimed votes meant for his party has been transferred to SAD – BJP alliance. Mr. Kejriwal demanded use of ballot paper for Delhi Municipal election. Moreover, 

Apart from coming out as sore losers, our political parties are making an effort to take India backwards by more than twenty years. After a long time, India has moved from paper ballot to electronic system. Earlier, it used to take days to count paper ballots, now outcome of an election can be known in three hours. 

Unlike electronic voting machines used in other countries, example of which is often quoted, Indian EVMs are standalone machines and are tamper proof. So the question of manipulating the machine is very remote. More than 150,000 EVMs were used in Uttar Pradesh, around 40,000 in Punjab and 11,000 in Uttarakhand.  To tinker manually each machine is an enormous task. Tampering at such a scale cannot happen without the involvement of thousands of poll personnel.

Apart from technical points, administratively voting machines stay in the custody of state governments. If ruling party in a state is losing, then there is very little chance the machine has been tampered with. If SAD – BJP alliance had taken vote away from AAP in Punjab, why not take the entire vote share and become principal opposition or even form government? Besides, paper ballots are as much amenable to fraud when stamped ballots are stuffed in boxes after capturing a booth by muscle men.

I think our political parties should think why voters have rejected them. Instead of blaming EVM, our politicians must recognise that they have been outmanuevered by a party with better idea, better organisational strength and better touch with voters. 
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