The issue of rigging of election by Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) has been raised in different states of the country. In Orissa, all the political parties, except the ruling BJD, are accusing the latter of tampering with EVMs, which crowned them with unexpected victory. Before discussing the large scale rigging by EVMs in Orissa assembly election, I think it appropriate to deal with the important question whether the Electronic Voting Machines are tamper-proof? If there is any doubt in its integrity, what compels us to take recourse to this method instead of ballots papers.
Arguments are being made that it is convenient and speedy. Can we sacrifice our valuable democratic rights for the sake of convenience? Is it not the most valuable right of a citizen to know as to in whose favour he casts his vote? I am of the firm view that the constitutional right of a citizen is being infringed by this method of voting where he has no scope to see or know in whose favour his vote has been recorded. It is not only unconstitutional, but this is violative of democratic norms and principles. The Supreme Court of Germany ruled in last March that e-voting was unconstitutional because the average citizen could not be expected to understand the exact steps involved in the recording and tallying of votes. It is not only Germany, almost all the developed countries of the world including US and other European countries have adopted ballot paper system as they have maximum respect for this valuable democratic rights of the citizens. But I fail to understand why we are adopting the said system when the countries whom we have followed in this respect have gone back to the ballot paper.
It is noteworthy that Shri KS Sudarsan, former Sarsanghachalak of RSS, has also clearly said that various political parties successfully tampered with EVMs to remain in power in his speech in Cuttack. He further questioned why we are having this system when developed countries like US and Germany have gone back to ballot paper. The article of Dr Subramanian Swamy which has been published in Organiser, is very analytical and thought provoking. He has referred to the articles of very learned Professors of computer science, published in reputed Computer Engineering journals and popular international press which not only raised doubts about the integrity of Electronic Voting Machines but opined that it can be tampered with. Dr Swamy placed different materials and established that it is not tamper proof. In a country like ours where percentage of the illiterate people is almost more than half who are being guided by the Presiding Officers in the polling booths why we are interested to have these EVMs. Should we sacrifice these valuable democratic rights of ours to the dictates of some power hungry and unscrupulous rulers and their power brokers?
When people are suspicious about the correct functioning of EVM which posed a danger to the democracy and the rights of the citizens, our keenness to continue with the system is deplorable. Should we not know that our votes are correctly recorded by the EVM? If a person is going to be hanged in a death sentence by a court of law, he is made known about the crime he has committed, but when you are hanging a candidate or his voter by your Electronic Voting Machine, you are not giving him any opportunity to know how his vote had been recorded. In my view this is a crime which should be get rid of. Some people argue that it is being tampered with should be proved. Direct proof or evidences are not always available in all crimes. In such cases the investigating agencies and the courts depend on circumstantial evidence to establish the case and to convict the criminals.
In the last general elections in Orissa there was a massive tampering with the EVM to support the ruling party BJD and both direct and circumstantial evidences are also available to prove such tampering. In different parts of the state, in some poling booths direct proofs are available. In Nima Sahi booth of Cuttack there was re-polling on public pressure when it was detected that all votes are being recorded in BJD symbol though different buttons were pressed. Complaints from other places of the state were not entertained. The case of Bhubaneswar may be cited as an example. Here I made a hattrick by winning assembly elections continuously for 3 terms and in the election of 2000 and 2004 margin of winning was 96,000 and 86,000 respectively from my nearest rivals. Here is a constituency where only state level senior and reputed leaders are elected and no light weight has ever been entertained since Independence. This time it is an exception which the people of Bhubaneswar are not prepared to believe. All organisations like the employees’ organisations, the religious organisations like Satsangh of Thakur Anukulchandra, Satyasai, Srima, Trahi Achyut and others and community leaders of Marwari, Sikh, Gujarati, Bihari, Telgu and all others were campaigning for me. Everybody knows that in the development of the state and Bhubaneswar, I have a key role and I entertain all sorts of grievances of the people of all walks of life and find solution to them. Still then I have been defeated which the people of Bhubaneswar as well as Orissa are not prepared to believe. The people of Bhubaneswar believe that due to the tampering of EVM, this could be possible.
It is not only in Bhubaneswar in all parts of the state specially in the second phase of election, candidates have become easy prey of Electronic Voting Machines. Entire state has been surprised to see how due to the tampering of EVM in the second phase the ruling BJD with its associates could capture 72 seats out of 77 where BJD alone has 64 seats. Was there any political super cyclone in its favour. People of Orissa know that there was no wave in favour of BJD in Orissa. Many candidates of BJD who had never dreamt of winning and were sure to lose in public estimation and according to their own versions have won the election with unbelievable margins of 25,000 to 60,000 votes. Some have now admited that it is due to the appropriate programming of EVM, they have won the election with such high margin.
It is very significant to note that in all the three constituencies of Bhubaneswar and its two adjoining constituencies the BJP candidates have got about 11,000 votes each. How accurately the programming of the EVM has been made? In Bhubaneswar (Central) of mine it is 11486, Bhubaneswar (North) 11350, Bhubaneswar (Ekamra) 11070, Delang-Pipili 11170 and Jaydev 10800. Criminals destroy all the evidence after the crime is committed by them but in many cases they leave behind some proof unconsciously which become fatal for them. Due to over anxiety to smash the prospects of the BJP candidates in these constituencies, EVM programming has been made in such a way that each of them got about 11,000 votes. This type of circumstantial evidence will be very helpful in proving the case of tampering with EVM.
Another significant feature of Orissa election is that all the seasoned and popular leaders of opposition specially BJP and Congress have been defeated. As it appears the ruling BJD has made a list of all these leaders and in a very planned way killed them by EVM. I feel the political parties should rise to save democracy from the clutches of EVM.
(The writer is a former Law Minister, Government of Orissa.)