The EVM excuse: Bogey of EVM switching is an outrageous attempt to deny public opinionhttps://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/lok-sabha-elections-election-commission-evm-bjp-congress-5743137/

The EVM excuse: Bogey of EVM switching is an outrageous attempt to deny public opinion

In the age of social media and screenshots, the public memory has been enhanced. They remember that Rahul Gandhi and his compatriots had raised a similar din just a few months ago and then happily accepted the results when it favoured them.

The information disseminated by the Election Commission has convinced most sane people that hacking EVMs is not possible, since they are stand-alone machines with no networking with the external world.

Scott Spencer could well have had the EVM bogey raised by the Congress party and its co-travelers in mind when he said “the trouble with excuses is that they become inevitably difficult to believe after they’ve been used a couple of times”.

It is not difficult to see why the current manufactured controversy on EVM reliability has been met with universal derision, except among members of the Khan Market gang. In the age of social media and screenshots, the public memory has been enhanced. They remember that Rahul Gandhi and his compatriots had raised a similar din just a few months ago and then happily accepted the results when it favoured them. The public remembers that in fact the originator of EVM bogey posted on February 4, 2015, that he suspected massive EVM tampering in Delhi and proceeded to accept the verdict a week later.

The information disseminated by the Election Commission has convinced most sane people that hacking EVMs is not possible, since they are stand-alone machines with no networking with the external world. This is why the din this time is not on EVM rigging or manipulation, but EVM replacement. EC procedures make it impossible for anyone to replace even one EVM. But even if we consider the outrageous theory plausible, consider what it entails: Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Telangana, Punjab, Karnataka, Odisha and Tamil Nadu all have non-BJP governments. Some states have never had a BJP government. Even in states where BJP is currently in office, like Uttar Pradesh, regional parties have networks at all levels.

From the people who pack and transport the EVMs, to those who man the CCTV cameras in strong rooms to those who provide the outer security ring, all are drawn from the local state machinery. If the EVM replacement theory were true, it would mean the BJP is orchestrating a nationwide conspiracy involving millions of people who are all keeping the secret. Even the scriptwriters of Game of Thrones would envy such a perfect plot.

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If the Opposition had been more honest in accepting public opinion, it would perhaps not have been reduced to trying to discredit India’s electoral democracy. Every survey after the 2014 elections has held that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not just maintained his popularity but actually increased it in many places, even over his party. In many states, the BJP has been voted to power without a chief ministerial candidate, purely on the basis of votes for Modi. Would it not been logical, then, that when Modi himself is on the line, his popularity would translate into votes?

As the recent CSDS-Lokniti pre-poll survey notes, Modi’s popularity has increased substantially, among both BJP as well as non-BJP voters, as compared to 2014. In fact, when CSDS-Lokniti surveyors asked voters, in a close-ended question, what they had kept in mind while voting (the party or the candidate), around 17 per cent chose neither option and instead said that what had mattered to them the most was the prime ministerial candidate (Modi). The same survey notes that the difference between the preference for Modi and his nearest rival is as high as 20 per cent.

In the last five years, there has been no finding in any pre-poll survey, reporting from the ground, anecdotal evidence, social media trends, participation in political rallies and in any of the just-released exit polls which would suggest that there was any disenchantment with the Modi-led BJP. None of these involved the use of EVMs. The result of the final exam, which will come on May 23, through EVMs, have been preceded by five years of a series of rigorous multi-pronged tests, each of which Modi has passed with flying colours. So, if the EVMs only confirm what every other indicator has been pointing at — that Modi is the defining Indian political phenomenon of this century — will it be a surprise?

This article first appeared in the print edition on May 23, 2019 under the title ‘The EVM Excuse’. The writer is CEO, Bluekraft Digital Foundation and former director (content), MyGov.