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EVM manipulation? BJP candidates 'couldn't enter' villages in western UP, yet won

By Sandeep Pandey, Vikrant Singh, Pawan Singh, Devesh Patel* 

Even though Yogi Adityanath is now back as Chief Minister, the 2022 Uttar Pradesh Assembly election results can at best be taken with a pinch of salt. The general mood during the campaign was for change. People wanted the Bhartiya Janata Party government to go.
People belonging to communities other than Yadav and Muslim, who were anyway believed to be solidly standing with Samajwadi Party, wanted to see Akhilesh Yadav back as CM, who was drawing more people in his rallies than either Yogi or Modi. However, results were contrary to common people’s expectations.
It is difficult to believe that in Lakhimpur Khiri, where Union Minister Ajay Mishra Teni’s son mowed done five people, the Minister was warned by Rakesh Tikait, the farmer leader, to not go for inauguration of a sugar mill otherwise he would face the ire of farmers, the Minister had to cast his own vote during the same elections amidst high security of central forces and people were agitated on bail given to the son Ashish Mishra, the BJP has won all seats.
Similarly, in Hathras reserved constituency, in spite of a gruesome rape of a Dalit girl last year, her death in hospital later, cremation of her body by police in early hours of morning instead of handing it over to her family and administration appearing to be trying to save the four upper caste accused men, there was resentment among people but here again BJP has been victorious.
The affect of farmers’ movement in western UP was such that BJP candidates could not enter some villages for campaigning. This was bound to adversely impact BJP’s performance in the first phase of election and then it was assumed that BJP would not be able to recover in subsequent phases from the setback it’ll receive here.
Just before the elections were announced, Shikha Pal, B.Ed., was atop an overhead water tank for over 150 days at the Education Directorate in Lucknow demanding that vacant teachers’ positions be filled with qualified candidates.
Ambulance drivers, who were compared with God during Corona crisis and on whom the state government had showered flower petals from helicopter were laid off by the private company which had the contract with government to run the service, were protesting and in spite of intervention by Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh associated trade union Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh there was no favourable response.
How do we believe that youth who got beaten up in Prayagraj in the context of Railway recruitment controversy and their families could support BJP? There was widespread anger among youth related to jobs just before the elections.
Two things which seemed to be going in favour of BJP were the Kisan Samman Nidhi and the free ration distribution. However, before the fourth phase stray cattle became an issue so much so that Narendra Modi had to declare in Unnao that, if re-elected, the BJP government would buy the cowdung and Yogi Adityanath promised Rs 900 per month per cattle to help the farmers meet the cost of keeping unproductive cattle.
Stray cattle had become irritants for farmers as early as 2017, soon after Yogi took over the reins in UP the first time but the BJP had somehow managed to avoid an electoral debacle because of this in 2019. But the stray cattle caught up with them this time and then it became obvious that the Kisan Samman Nidhi or the free ration was actually a compensation to farmers for the crops which were being devoured by stray cattle. The farmers have been a harassed lot keeping awake all night trying to save their standing crops.
How, then, was the BJP, facing such tremendous odds, able to pull through? Were Electronic Voting Machines manipulated or did the government machinery help BJP win?
Just before the counting day, 10 March, EVMs or ballot papers were caught in Azamgarh, Prayagraj, Bareilly, Sonebhadra, Sant Kabir Nagar and Varanasi, mostly in government vehicles. This gives an indication that there were attempts by the administration to alter the EVMs or ballot papers probably in large number of constituencies.
It is just that at the abovementioned places they were caught because the information was probably leaked by one among the government employees, not all of whom were sympathetic to the government this time. Government officials have been known to change ballot boxes in the past.
Just before the counting day, EVMs were caught in Azamgarh, Prayagraj, Bareilly, Sonebhadra, Sant Kabir Nagar and Varanasi, mostly in government vehicles
It is quite possible that they indulge in EVM replacements now. Reports from some counting centres indicate that there were EVMs close to 99% charged which were yielding results in favour of BJP more than compared with other EVMs which were just 60-70% charged. Could these almost fully charged EVMs have been the replaced ones?
Out of 29 constituencies in which the margin of victory was less than 2000 votes, the BJP has won 19. In 15 seats where the margin of victory was less than 1000 votes the number of postal ballots is more than the victory margin.
So, in seats where the margin of victory was small, it may have been possible to merely manipulate the postal ballots to change the result without doing anything to the EVMs. For example, in Kursi Vidhan Sabha constituency in Barabanki district, the Samajwadi Party candidate Rakesh Verma was declared winner. When he returned after garlanding the statue of his late father Beni Prasad Verma he was told that the BJP candidate Sakendra Pratap had won by 217 votes. The number of postal ballots here was 618.
To lay to rest any lingering doubt in the minds of electorate that EVMs were changed or tampered with, the Election Commission of India could present before the people, even now, the results of counting the VVPAT slips for all centres and all machines. Right now there is a provision to verify result from EVM with VVPAT slips counting at 5 randomly chosen booths of every Assembly constituency.
But these results are never reported in press. ECI should bring some transparency in this process and undertake 100% counting of VVPAT slips. This would also satisfy the people who demand going back to the ballot paper system as counting 100% slips would be akin to counting ballot papers.
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*Associated with Socialist Party (India); Prof Sandeep Pandey is Magsaysay award winning social activist and academic

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