EVMs threaten vote value
by Bhim Singh on 01 Feb 2013 1 Comment
The vote value in Indian democracy means that every citizen who is qualified voter is vested with the absolute right to vote for the person of his/her choice. Yet the electoral system in India is passing through turbulence as there are several questions that need to be answered regarding this vote value.


It is imperative that the right to franchise has to be exercised without fear or temptation so that voters may vote according to genuine and considered choice. During the past 60 years experience shows that both money and muscle power have played a role in securing votes, thereby making a mockery of our democracy. Rigging has threatened the credibility of elections to the State Assemblies and the Lok Sabha, and despite interventions from the Apex Court, the rigging menace continues.


The system of counting votes through Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) has been discarded in many democratic countries as it has been found that EVMs do not enhance the credibility of the elections. EVMs can be pre-programmed by rigging the software, and have been manipulated as per the dictates of presiding officers.


Electoral fraud is easy in far-flung areas where voters and polling agents are not so assertive, as those in metropolitan towns. Also, presiding officers can be ‘managed’ by the ruling party as has happened often in the past. Thus, we have the anomaly of EVMs showing 70 to 95 per cent polling in hilly and backward areas where 60 to 70 per cent voters are illiterate or totally unaware how to operate the EVMs. The writer has personal experience that presiding officers often perform the duty of pressing the button on behalf of voters. It is imperative that voters be educated in advance that presiding officers cannot act as masters on polling day. It is being increasingly felt in many parts of the country that after an election, several presiding officers under the dictates of their superiors try to add to the voting percentage of a candidate or party.


Recently Himachal Pradesh reported 75% polling in the Assembly election. 99% poll was shown in the election of the Legislative Council where a voter was a panchayat member. This voting trend of highest percentage in the elections cannot be allowed because it is a dangerous signal against democracy and the parliamentary system. This deserves urgent intervention of the Election Commission of India to ensure that presiding officers do not destroy the faith of voters in the democratic process and to respect and protect voters’ rights which are being undermined by the EVMs.


The Indian parliamentary system is unique in that every voter is equal, and every vote has the same value no matter what the social, economic or political status of the citizen. The tragedy is that muscle and money power have joined hands to muzzle the electoral process. The Election Commission of India must come out with new initiatives such as calling on the State to take care of the election expenses of recognized political parties. Of course, this is a larger issue and requires parliamentary sanction.


The system needs overhauling so far as election petitions are concerned. There are dozens of cases against sitting legislators and ministers which mostly remain pending for five years on one pretext or the other. The law on election petitions needs to tightened and made time-bound so that a person elected fraudulently can be un-seated during the tenure that of House. It would be in order for the Election Commission of India to convene a working session with representatives of all recognized political parties to work out a concrete, viable and practical resolution in respect to prevailing anomalies, contradictions and failing clauses concerning elections to the respective legislatures. This would be in the interests of democracy and rule of law so that the vote value of each voter is upheld and cannot be compromised by the powerful.


As far as Jammu and Kashmir is concerned, the writer is pained to place on record that J&K was excluded by the Election Commission of India in the process of holding delimitation of Assembly & Lok Sabha constituencies after the 2001 census. It was unfortunate that Government of India opposed the Panthers Party petition before the Supreme Court of India supporting the Government of J&K against holding delimitation of Assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies. Census of 2011 has also been completed. There is no hope that the governments of J&K and the Centre will allow the voters of J&K to exercise their franchise according to the law that prevails in the entire country.


Why J&K was excluded from the delimitation exercise? The Election Commission of India must justify this discriminatory and obnoxious decision of the State government and the Union of India. Delimitation of Assembly constituencies is the fundamental of every voter and one hopes that all political parties and the Election Commission of India will come to the rescue of voters’ rights in J&K as well


The author is chief patron, National Panthers Party. The above article is based on a presentation on the occasion of National Voters’ Day on 25 January 2013 at Vigyan Bhawan, Delhi

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