EVM fear forcing Congress MLAs to migrate, says KPCC leader

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“Congress MLAs in Karnataka fear losing in the upcoming Assembly elections owing to doubts over the integrity of the electronic voting machines (EVMs). At least 50 per cent of them might shift to the other party due to fear of losing,” alleged media convener of Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee Brijesh Kalappa, triggering a fresh controversy.

In a counter to Kalappa’s comments, Chief Election Commissioner O.P Rawat, who was the chief guest at the 14th national conference on electoral reforms held in Bengaluru on Saturday, hit back saying, rumours should not become prime movers for electoral reforms.

“Most concerns over the EVMs have been addressed in the EVM status paper available on our website. The case of a candidate polling zero votes which is cited by people often has been investigated and it was found to be a false charge. I dread the day when rumours become prime movers for reforms,” said Rawat, who seemed wary of the the constant rhetoric of political parties, who raised doubts over the EVMs’ “vulnerability”.

Earlier Kalappa had alleged that the raising suspicion over EVMs had put a lot of pressure on the sitting Congress MLAs. “Our party introduced the EVMs. But with reports of the machines voting for a single party is emerging, there is a need for another blazing reform. A lot of us feel that ballot paper is better than an EVM. There is a rumour that a party and a relative of that party are incharge of repairing dysfunctional EVMs. This makes us look at EVMs with suspicion, if EVMs and VVPAT are not used together. I urge the EC to introduce VVPAT for Karnataka polls as our MLAs are under pressure to shift to the other party due to EVMs. It is binding on EC to make us feel EVMs will not be manipulated,” said Kalappa.

While JD(S) national spokesperson Tanveer Ahmed, too, reiterated that the EC had the responsibility of allaying fears over the EVMs by citing technicalities involved in making it tamper-proof.

Yashwant Deshmukh of C-voter rued the fact that though India was admired by the world for its electoral system and reforms, the country was getting “overcritical”. “India’s election history can be divided into pre-EVM and post-EVM. Before EVMs were introduced, we saw that 90 per cent of the results were pro-incumbent which means the same people kept winning. Post EVMs, 95 per cent of results were anti-incumbent. However, further reforms can help us move into a biometric electoral system, which will be a move towards attaining perfection,” explained Deshmukh.

Rawat, during his inaugural address, stated that electoral reforms were necessary to enhance the overall governance, but also warned of “distortion of information” and “insinuations” on social media that are adversely impacting the electoral system and the social fabric of the country.

Citing that the biggest challenges were the criminalisation of politics, abuse of money, power and paid news, Rawat said, criminalisation of politics affects governance, too, and people get disenchanted with the system. We want bribery by candidates to be made a cognisable offence and we have exercised our powers to countermand bypolls in RK Nagar (Tamil Nadu). However, most reforms need amendment to the existing laws.”

To meet emerging challenges, ECI has signed an MoUs with 20 countries for collaboration to constantly fine tune the election management system. The India International Institute of Democracy and Electoral Management has conducted 30 global and 300 domestic programmes. “We have to make the system strong and transparent. But intra-party democracy is also crucial and democracy should be in one’s DNA, for real reforms to take place. The EC does not have power to deregister a party. Absence of ceiling on party expenditure has also created an uneven playing field where only the moneyed parties get benefits. The election expenditures are mind-boggling today. When it comes to crackdown on paid news, we are unable to provide proof and we should be able to withstand judicial scrutiny, too. Many media houses are run by politicians or have an equation and it is difficult to decipher the payment terms. However, the silver lining is that, out of the 1,800 paid news cases reported, almost 99.9 per cent of them have seen candidates admit they have violated the rule. The cases are pending before the court,” explained Rawat.