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How to call opposition parties’ bluff on manipulation of EVM

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Rattled by the results of exit polls (that Modi is a clear winner in 2019 general election), the opposition parties have intensified their attack on Electronic Voting Machine (EVM). In the past, more than once the Election Commission (EC) has tried to prove that EVMs cannot be manipulated. More than 2 years ago, the EC released data to prove that in the constituencies where voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines were used, the number of votes polled by each candidate counted by EVMs tallied with the number of paper trails counted. As promised by the EC at that time, in 2019 general election only VVPAT machines were used.

Before the election, the opposition parties had demanded that 50% of votes polled in each constituency should be tallied with VVPAT slips. After consulting the EC, on April 8, 2019 the Supreme Court ordered that VVPAT slips of randomly selected 5 EVMs in each constituency would be counted. The court said that this would ensure the “greatest degree of accuracy, satisfaction” in the election process.

Despite, sufficient proof given by the EC 2 years ago and the Supreme Court order of April 8 to remove any doubt, the opposition parties have decided to keep the controversy alive. We all know that this is nothing but a face-saving programme.

They will be able to keep the controversy alive also because of opinions of some ‘experts’ who claim that technologies are available to manipulate EVMs: chips can be inserted to transfer votes to the desired candidate; EVMs can be pre-programmed to get the desired candidate elected; even after voting is over, old data can be deleted and desired data fed.

Even 9th class fail Tejashwi Yadav has become an expert and says that EVMs can be manipulated.

My suggestion is that to end the controversy once for all, the EC should take a tough stand. Instead of trying to prove that EVMs cannot be manipulated, the EC should put the burden of proof that EVMs can be manipulated on the challengers. The issue should ask all the challengers to provide information under the 5 heads mentioned below.

(1) Technologies available for different types of voting machines (specifying whether the particular technology is for stand-alone machines as used in India or for inter-connected, through wire or internet, machines or for both); name of the inventor and period of invention; claims made by the inventor with proof; the scale on which each technology has been used; technology which has been used in India to influence election results so far.

(2) Readiness of a technology or technologies for mass application i.e. in several constituencies at the same time to influence results.

(3) Accessibility to EVMs (always kept under safe custody) for manipulation i.e. methods manipulators can use for access to tamper with machines.

(4) Time, and resources (number of expert operators, cost, logistics, etc.) required for manipulation of EVMs to influence results of election of one constituency.

(5) Risks and uncertainties i.e. chances of detection of manipulation during demonstration before polling starts or during or after voting and chances of failure of the technology during its application.

I am sure challenger would be able to provide any plausible information

Only such a strategy can silence the challengers.

Devendra Narain

IRS (Retd.)

(A former head of the Project Appraisal Division of the erstwhile Planning Commission)

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