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Need of the hour: Hold Gujarat assembly elections scheduled in December 2017 with the Paper Trail method

By Gautam Thaker*
In the recent elections held in Maharashtra, accusations were made about tampering with the EVMs. In the results of the District Panchayat and Mahanagar Palika polls, it has been revealed that EVMs had been hacked. In many places, large difference has been noticed between the number of voters registered and the votes counted.
In Mumbai, it has been found that one candidate had secured '0' vote. In this context candidates of the respective parties have registered complaints before the Election Commission. Shiv Sena, NCP, MANASE, and Congress candidates have lodged complaints about fraud with the EVMs.
Besides that, it is revealed that tampering has also been done with the electoral rolls. During the polls of Mumbai Mahanagar Palika, 11 lakh voters had lost their right to vote at the last moment, as their names were missing. In one ward of Nasik town it so happened that number of votes cast were more than total No. of voters registered.
In Yeravada ward of Pune, number of voters registered was 33,289, but during counting of the votes cast, they were found to be 43324. In one area, after issuance of confirmation letter of victory under the article 194, a victory procession was taken out. Later on after one hour, it was found that counting of one EVM was still pending. In that EVM all the votes cast were found in favour of the BJP candidate and suddenly BJP candidate was declared as winner.
In Sakinaka area of Mumbai, again, one Independent sandidate Shrikant Sirsat secured '0' vote. He maintained that even when his family and neighbours had cast vote in his favour, the outcome was zero. In Nagpur, NCP has raised a clear demand for inquiring into EVM scam.
In Amaravati, all the parties got together and gave a 'Bandh' call against the misuse of EVM. It received good response, which is worth noting. In Kolhapur, one former Judge of the High Court, BG Kolase said that that as there was tampering with EVMs, hence there is necessity of paper trail machine. If it is not possible then demand for 'back to ballot' should be made.
Various similar incidents have happened in the recent elections of five states, as is learnt from the reports received from the media. As regards the EVMs, different ghosts are emerging from the Pandora’s box. Mayawati and all opposition parties have leveled accusations regarding large scale irregularities committed through EVMs in the Assembly elections in UP.
Accusations have been made even to the extent that, by tampering with the EVMs, election results have been manipulated. Opposition parties of India, and especially Mayawati and Arvind Kejriwal, are making a huge hue and cry. They do not consider EVMs as reliable. The fear of hacking has penetrated into their minds.
In the year 2009, BJP's Lal Krishna Advani and Dr Subramaniam Swami had expressed severe distrust and doubts about EVMs, and party's chief spokesman GVL Narsimha Rao even authored a book on that. Many computer experts have said that EVM is a computer programme, which can also be modified with the skills of the hackers.
Technical experts keeping vigil on the security of the EVMs also believe that it is not a big issue to hack the EVMs and this can also be proved. In 2009, BJP, accompanied with electronic experts, had in various towns throughout the country, attempted to prove before the people that EVMs can be tampered with. This movement continued till 2014.
A direction was received to implement 'Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail' (VVPAT) by successfully litigating up to the Supreme Court. Paper trail allows the voter the permission to verify as to whom he had voted for. After the voter casts his vote, a printed sheet comes out of the EVM which reveals as to in whose favor he had cast his vote.
The Supreme Court, opining that for free and fair poll VVPAT is essential, issued a directive in January 2017 to the Election Commissioner for its implementation. With the Paper Trail method transparency can be maintained in the electoral process, and at the same time credibility of the EVM machines can also be gained.
In the voting, accuracy can be maintained and in the event of controversy, by manual counting of vote, dispute can be resolved. For free and fair elections, Paper Trail is inevitable. By doing so, trust of the people i.e. voters on the EVMs, can be regained. For this, Paper Trail is a successful tool.
Now the question arises as to whether the Election Commission will implement the directive of the Paper Trail. Before the faith in electoral process is shaken, concerned citizens and organizations will have to make intensive efforts for compulsory implementation of Paper Trail.
An agitation with the demand to organize Gujarat Assembly Polls for the 2017 with the Paper Trail method, is a need of the hour.
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*General secretary, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Gujarat

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