Mystery Of The Eccentric EVMs - Some Tips For The New CEC

Raman Swamy

Even before taking charge as the new Chief Election Commissioner, Sunil Arora received a flood of serious complaints of very peculiar goings-on regarding EVM machines - voting machines being found in hotel rooms and school buses;
- mysterious power blackouts in storage strong-rooms;
-  ghostly presence of suspicious characters with geeky looking gadgets inside the strong-rooms during the blackouts.

But having served more than a year as one of the three Election Commissioners, Arora should have no difficulty in dealing with nuisance of fear-mongering by politicians-turned-ace-detectives attempting to raise the bogey of machine rigging and various kinds of hi-tech hera-pheri.

All he needs to do is to follow the rulebook laid out by his illustrious predecessors and read out the pre-scripted standard official responses.

All he has to say is:  “EVMs are tamper-proof”. That will silence the conspiracy theorists.

Wherever there is video evidence of naughty goings-on in and around polling stations and heavily-guarded storage facilities and incontrovertible proof of allegedly eccentric EVM behaviour, he can say with a straight face: "There were no delays in replacing malfunctioning EVMs. All VVPATs which developed glitches or snags were also replaced promptly”.  

By issuing such categorical denials and clarifications, he will be able to lay all suspicions to rest and silence those who cry wolf, with the full might of the constitutional and quasi-judicial authority vested in the exalted office of CEC. 

If he feels like it, he can drive home the point by adding:  “When defective voting machines are replaced, it only cause some delay in the polling process but does not alter the outcome of the election”.  

Also, just to underline the fairness of the entire election exercise, he can make another oft-repeated line from the official script: “The Commission takes all complaints seriously. The matters brought to our notice have been thoroughly inquired into. We have arrived at the conclusion that all allegations regarding machine tampering and vote manipulation are false, fictitious and without basis because EVMs are foolproof and tamperproof".

There is yet another sentence he has the option to append to official statement: “Suitable action has been taken against polling staff and other personnel on official duty at polling stations against whom prima facie evidence was found of violation of rules or irregular procedure”.

That should settle it. That should be enough to make the carpers and critics look like computer illiterates and sore losers, which is what they are.   

All that remains is to ahead with counting of votes on December 11, followed by the formal announcement of results of the elections to the State Legislatures of Manipur,  Madhya Pradesh,  Chhattisgarh,  Rajasthan and Telangana, 2018.   

Even that is not really necessary because, as everyone knows or should know by now, the final score is a foregone conclusion: BJP 5, Others Nil. 

The truth is that there is no way the BJP can lose. Their leader Narendra Modi has the support of 1.25 billion Indians.

Also there is no way BJP can be allowed to lose in even one of the three States where it is seeking re-election. Too much is at stake. A setback in Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan would not only shatter the myth of invincibility of Narendra Modi but would also burst the balloon of the other myth that has been so carefully cultivated since 2014 - Congress-mukt Bharat. 

As for the other two States involved in the current batch of elections, admittedly the BJP has no realistic or even imaginary chances of wresting power in Telangana.  However, when EVM source codes are available the temptation to transfer electronic votes is strong. How nice it would be to make dramatic inroads to the South and capture control of the hi-tech city of Hyderabad. The same applies to Manipur -  prospects dim but potential limitless. It is the sacred duty of all patriots to ensure total victory.

To make it happen however certain rituals have to be followed for the sake of optics. The Commission has to go through the standard operating procedures of taking cognizance of the complaints of electoral malpractice, the mysterious disappearance of EVMs, the even more mysterious reappearance of the said machines after 48 hours, and the alleged entry of unauthorized persons into heavily-guarded strong-rooms where EVMs are stored after Voting Day. 

Undoubtedly it is a tedious task to scrutinize the complaints, go through the process of evaluating the evidence, viewing videos if any, cross-checking attendance registers and transport logs, etc. etc. 

None of this is really problematic but it is just a time-consuming chore that has to be gone through for the credibility. After all,  elections in any Democracy must be seen to be free, fair, above board and beyond suspicion.  

Fortunately, none of the political parties are tech-savvy enough to understand how electronic voting machines really work, what source codes are and how they can be used to transfer votes without detection and without breaking the seals of EVMs in storage or during transit.  

Nor does anyone in Indian politics and related professions like journalism have the expertise to read and understand the technical studies carried out by technology researchers in the USA to show how EVMs can be rigged. 

All that is required is to issue the formal press release after a few days abating that all complaints have been gone through meticulously and no evidence of vote tampering has been found.   

The political parties can wring their hands in frustration to their hearts content and can even scream, shout and pull their hair if they so desire.

The public at large will be satisfied and the anchors of talk shows on the mainstream media will repeat the oft-repeated line – It is always the losers who level allegations of EVM rigging.  Well, that is like stating the obvious, isn’t it?  Why would the winners of elections allege rigging?  

Dec 3, 2018

Raman Swamy [email protected]

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