With the political parties demanding the use of Ballot papers instead of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in elections, Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat on Monday said it takes stakeholders views very seriously and will try to address the issues raised comprehensively.
The Chief Election Commission Om Prakash Rawat on Monday assured it takes stakeholders’ views very seriously and that the issue of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) will be raised comprehensively.
In an exclusive conversation with the media, Rawat said, “Though the commission is yet to have a deliberation on this, EC takes stakeholders’ views very seriously and tries to address the issues raised most comprehensively.”
Rawat further said that Indian EVMs are unique in the world.
“Our EVM is unique. It is standalone and has no connection to the outside world. It doesn’t have auxiliary circuit; it is not capable of talking to other machines on wireless; it doesn’t have a wire system. This kind of EVM is not used anywhere in the world. It is our own innovation,” added Rawat.
The CEC’s observation has come after the Congress party at its plenary session joined the chorus against the EVMs and in favour of the ballot papers.
Explaining the difficulties in bringing back the ballot paper system, Rawat said, “Replacement of ballot papers by the EVMs has resulted in many improvements. The role of muscle power has diminished considerably. Filling of votes is possible if ballot box is there. In EVM, loading one vote requires 15 seconds. Say if at one polling booth, 800-2000 votes are to be loaded then it would require a considerable time, which would be enough for an enforcement to reach to catch hold of the miscreants. Therefore, the misuse of muscle power in affecting the polling outcome has reduced considerably.”
Commenting on a video from Russia where election officials were allegedly seen filling up the ballot boxes, Rawat said, “Ballot boxes have never been secure. They are never secure.”
Replying another question, the CEC said, “The EC doesn’t have to defend EVMs. We are creating a lot of public awareness on it. In one programme, when a political leader launched a tirade against the EVMs, then the public shouted him down. What do you understand by that?”
When asked how the growing chorus against the EVMs will affect democracy, Rawat said, “Democracy is a too strong system that trivial matters cannot affect it. Only thing is that the Election Commission looks into all grievances of stakeholders and tries to address all those in a positive way. For example, in the all-party meeting, we (EC) were advised that unless 100 percent deployment of VVPATs is there, the election should be held with the ballot paper. The Commission immediately deployed 100 percent VVPATs.”
He added that nobody can control the complaints and if the complaints are controlled then it will affect democracy.
“Grievances should be brought to the notice of the Commission so that it takes note of it. Because, our system is for the majority; the majority of the people and majority of the political parties should be happy with the system,” Rawat said.
He said that those who cast doubts on the EVMs should come forward and suggest what will clear their doubt.
“They should come forward and tell us what will clear their doubt. Or, are they determined to go back to the muscle power and booth capturing. It is up to them,” Rawat said.
He also said the EC has also included it in a status paper on the EVMs that why did some countries stop using electronic voting.
“The electronic voting is stopped in some countries because their own judicial system struck down saying since you have not made the laws in conformity for use of EVMs, therefore it cannot be done,” the CEC said.
When asked about the advocacy of former Election Commissioners for the auditing of more EVMs, Rawat said, “Whatever they are saying is merely a suggestion. But, what our main stakeholders-political parties and candidates- say has got different footing. And, the Commission always takes their views seriously.”
Off late, the opposition political parties have been casting doubts on the EVMs after election results.
After the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls; Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Aam Aadmi Party, Congress, and others had questioned the EVMs alleging that they were tampered with.
To clear the air on the issue, the Election Commission had organised EVM Challenge for all the political parties on June 3 in New Delhi last year to demonstrate that the EVMs could be tampered with.
It ended in an anti-climax with neither of the two takers for the ‘dare’- Communist Party of India- Marxist [CPI-M] and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)- came forward to take the challenge.