Can you rig the polls in India today?

Last Updated: Sun, Apr 27, 2014 14:27 hrs

A polling booth in Pune saw all the votes being transferred to Congress no matter who was voted for. The faulty electronic voting machine (EVM) was replaced. Repolls were ordered in other constituencies in Maharashtra too during mock polls showing grave errors.

AAP have also alleged that in the Gondhia-Bhandara constituency, votes of other parties were going to the NCP. Interestingly high-profile minister Praful Patel is standing from this constituency.

And who can forget the video of NCP supremo Sharad Pawar asking his supporters to vote twice! On Twitter some people also claimed that in certain areas in Maharashtra the ink could be washed off and even joked calling it “Pawar ink”!

To make matters worse, lakhs and lakhs of voters found their names missing from the voters’ list. The problem is that many of these had voted in 2009. Some reports have even put the total number at a whopping 6 million in Maharashtra.

There was also the video that surfaced of Ajit Pawar (of the NCP again) threatening to cut water of a village that didn’t vote for them. The results of Maharashtra will be followed closely by everyone.

The only plus point is that we have a few months to sort out all of the above issues because Maharashtra is also going for Assembly polls this year and that should definitely not be an action repeat of the Lok Sabha polls.

In Jharkhand there were protests over EVM tampering that ended up in a lathi-charge of protestors. Both the BJP and JVM demanded a judicial inquiry into the incident. Katihar in Bihar also saw a slight delay in voting due to EVM snags.

Allegations of EVM fraud emerged in Balurghat in West Bengal. The BJP there alleged that BJP votes were getting transferred to the Trinamool. Such minor hold-ups have been reported all over India. In Dausa in Rajasthan, polling agents were “guiding” illiterate voters.

Another video released on YouTube shows a gentleman in what is alleged to be Guwahati checking on all the voters while they are voting and even seemingly pressing the button for them!

In this particular case the EC cracked down and made arrests and repolls. In fact, the EC has ordered repolls in 12 booths at one go.

Once booth capturing was a very common phenomenon in India. Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal were some of the culprits. But after the electoral reforms brought about by revolutionary CEC TN Seshan in the 1990s, one would have thought that such incidences had ended in India.

But now one is not so sure. With so many reports and allegations coming out to the contrary, one wonders: What exactly is going on? Is someone going to investigate all this quickly and get to the root of it all?

It is no wonder that the world over many countries have decided to ban EVMs. This includes Germany, the Netherlands and many US States. The common charge is that they can easily be hacked. In fact the issue of the likelihood of EVMs getting tampered in India has been raised by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy.

The first PIL against EVMs was filed in 2011 and later Swamy also fought for the same in courts. It has been demonstrated in the past how Indian EVMs could be tampered with. Swamy has demanded and independent expert committee to determine secure safeguards.

EVMs started being used in India in 1999 and they went in for complete EVMs from the 2004 general elections. They were manufactured by BEL and ECIL. While till date there have been no FIRs or scams that have come out of EVMs, one security expert claimed that it could be targeted at many levels.

It has been claimed that an Indian EVM can be tampered with at the hardware, software and display level. The Election Commission of India has totally rubbished such claims.

But is it theoretically possible to rig an entire general election? Sounds totally impossible but stranger things have happened.

Till 1999, general elections usually used to go the way of political predictions. When EVMs were fully introduced in 2004, the results were a surprise to everyone. 2009 was an even bigger surprise.

Even in the 2012 UP elections, all the polls pointed to a hung Assembly, but the SP surprised one and all by getting a clear majority.

Of course all of these are mere co-incidences.

So will the 2014 general elections go according to current opinion polls or are we in for another shock?

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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here.