I have said this before, but it bears repeating. The common man of India does not care much about corruption. They care about what the bottom line is for them. This is exactly how corrupt - even known corrupt politicians keep getting reelected - they do things people find relevant and useful and keep their corruption irrelevant to the immediate interest of their voters.
It would be folly for Aam Aadmi Party to ignore this aspect while being an anti-corruption party.
The common man has little awareness of National Wealth. How much wealth the country has, how it gets used or looted or who loots it are so distant to him, that they might as well not exist or be the same difference either way. It makes little difference to the common man whether an expose happens or the loot continues unabated in terms of direct relevance to their lives - the money is out of their reach anyway. If the corrupt are doing good things, they will ignore the corruption because either way the money won't reach them, and vote on the basis of the interest satisfied.
Exposes alone will fail to "clean" Indian politics.
What Aam Aadmi Party should do as strategy - and I believe that it is also appropriate justice and accountability - is that it must make an effort to accompany every expose with a desired demand for action that is immediately beneficial to the people. For example, an expose of an electricity scam should demand that the losses suffered by people from undue billing should be recovered and refunded to them. This is beyond the actual demand for justice or PIL that gets filed. Perhaps the demand can also be in the PIL.
Exposing the irrigation scam is not enough when people are losing orchards to drought. the expose should be accompanied by a demand for immediate arrangements of water on an emergency basis by the government - on the establishment of the fact that irrigation paid for has not been delivered for a decade - regardless of who is found guilty or prosecuted and so on. When the guilty are found,the amount the government spends can be recovered with interest from their hide, but the aid to the region must not have to wait for projects to complete or cases to be judged. The PIL itself should include a plea for the government to make immediate arrangements and amends on a war footing and the conclusion of the case will decide who ends up paying for it.
Such actions will also pressure the governments to conclude cases faster to recover own funds and will help citizens understand what corruption did to them and what advantage an accountable government can offer them.
When I suggested this on twitter, several people claimed that AAP cannot do such things if it is not elected with majority. This is not true. Many agitations and protests happen through non political channels too! Let alone political channels with some representation and voice at least.Besides, the demand being stated itself will provide people with a vision of possibilities - that wrongs done to them can be repaired to some degree, not merely relegated to the abyss of newsprint while their lives continue to be the same.
As a side bonus, it will also provide AAP with ready data on exactly how many lives their expose improved.
Hope this makes sense.
Comment away, make suggestions to improve this, pick at fallacies, whatever.
That Electronic Voting Machines are not tamper proof has been well established, including by the High Court of Delhi judgment on the Public Interest Litigation filed by Dr. Subramanian Swamy in 2012. There have been previous suspicions of Electoral Fraud by rigging Electronic voting machines. Notable among these are the article by Dr. Subramanian Swamy in the year 2000 that pointed out disproportionate votes to BJP in constituencies with Electronic Voting Machines as compared with Constituencies polled using paper ballot. In the year 2000, Swamy had alleged that the widespread use of EVMs was a part of the RSS plan and provided some numbers to prove his allegation:
Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) will be used in all the constituencies. Perhaps it is then easier to rig the outcome. After all, in the 1999 general elections, the BJP and its allies won 34 out of the 45 Lok Sabha constituencies which had EVMs. On that ratio, the NDA should have won 405 se ats of the 544 Lok Sabha constituencies and not 292. EVMs have to be programmed by an engineer to tabulate the votes in its memory. It can easily be programmed to transfer votes of one candidate to another, or one party to another. The EVMs are entirely unsafeguarded today. I suspect it was rigged in the 1999 general elections.
Independently in 2009, Dr Anupam Saraph, the chief information officer of Pune, appointed by the Pune Municipal Corporation and an advisor to the United Nations and Dr Madhav Nalapath, an expert on geopolitics, who had planned to track the elections found excel files on the Election Commission's website on the 6th of May 2009 - 9 days before the polling ended on 15th May and 10 days before vote counting began. This data was further updated on the 8th and 11th before the final results. The Election Commission dismissed this finding as dummy data. However it is unlikely that dummy data would get updated or that dummy data would reflect trends accurately in 180 constituencies. More information, including the updated xls file versions here.
The video refutes several claims of security made by the Election Commission and is a must watch for every Indian voter.
Also in 2010, we saw Narendra Modi and BJP accused of EVM rigging when it turned out that machines used to poll votes had not been supplied by the EC and there were reports of votes cast for the Congress resulting in the light for BJP being lit. After polling by 44 people, one machine registered 111 votes.
Subramanian Swamy had tweeted that several machines had been rigged.
However, this is the tip o the iceberg. The video makes it clear that rigging is possible in ways that are less easily detectable - for example, transferring a certain percentage of the votes after a certain number of votes have been cast - so that it is more difficult to detect - there is virtually no trail.
India's Deputy Commissioner, Alok Shukla had told BBC, "It is not just the machine, but the overall administrative safeguards which we use that make it absolutely impossible for anybody to open the machine." ... "Before the elections take place, the machine is set in the presence of the candidates and their representatives. These people are allowed to put their seal on the machine, and nobody can open the machine without breaking the seals." However, this is not true.
The researchers state that the seals are easy to tamper with. But these are still possibilities. Less easy to dismiss are concrete incidents.
The returning officer, in the case where the EVM was found transferring all votes to BJP said "These EVMs were here for long. Usually, EVMs are kept in the custody of the deputy commissioner and during elections they are taken to strong rooms."
Congress candidate Sanjay Nirupam, who lost with a big margin alleged EVM tampering as well. “Congress candidates have been defeated in Gujarat, Maharshtra and Uttar Pradesh with massive leads, which is not possible. The contract of the EVM had been given to a multi-national company based in Gujarat. This in itself is suspicious,” Nirupam alleged.
Less ambiguous is the situation in Varanasi, which all media except Indian Express have studiously ignored. A day before the Varanasi polls, Awadesh Kumar Srivastava, a divisonal audit officer in the Rural Engineering Department, was given charge of two additional EVMs, to be used as replacements. Srivastava took the EVMs home, instead of keeping them in the allotted sector headquarters as required. Srivastava’s son clicked photographs of himself and his father with the EVMs. He uploaded these photographs on Facebook, with the comment “Ab ki baar, Modi Sarkar”.
I am currently trying to trace this newspaper. If you know please comment below. Better copy of print will also be appreciated. It can also be mischief, but the headlines are certainly serious enough to investigate. [update: It seems it may be a clipping from Amar Ujala. However, which edition and date is unclear. Still trying to confirm.]
Other issues include reports of booth capturing, presence of Rahul Gandhi in polling booth and accusations of EVM rigging and demands for re-polling by BJP as well.
Considering the scale of Indian Elections and the significant number of situations where EVM fraud can be considered likely, this should be looked into by the Supreme Court and the Election set aside and re-election should be conducted using ballot paper in the interests of protecting the voice of the people if need be.
Update: Since then, BJP has also been accused of rigging EVMs in Civic polls in Maharashtra with some instances of more votes being counted than votes cast, allegations of tampering in the Pune Civic polls as well as in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. Videos have also emerged of a woman alleging booth capturing in UP where women voters were told that the EVM wasn't working, while their votes were cast in favor of BJP instead of BSP. The EC which could easily verify the paper trails and investigate complaints shows no inclination to do so.
A case of what appears to be electoral fraud has been brought to attention by volunteers of the Aam Aadmi Party.
Note: This post is based on allegations made by some supporters of the Aam Aadmi Party, which I found suspicious enough to make note of. I have not verified any of this information independently, but I imagine it won't be so difficult. If you find this contradicts facts in any way, please inform me, and I will update the post accordingly.
Independent candidates using the "TORCH" symbol contested in at least 17 and up to 19 constituencies in Delhi elections. There was no ground level campaigning by these candidates that Aam Aadmi Party workers are aware of, yet 'Torch' symbol in Delhi election got the highest number of votes for any independent candidate. Each torch symbol got between four and five thousand votes.
The placement of the "BATTERY TORCH" symbol (Symbol 10 on page 85) during voting was above the Aam Aadmi Party's broom, and looked quite similar to the "BROOM" symbol used by the Aam Aadmi Party.
Now, it is rather surprising that so many independents independently happened to think of the same symbol as the Aam Aadmi Party, and got thousands seats without campaigning, but was placed just above the broom symbol during polling. Too far fetched a coincidence.
Aam Aadmi Party claims that the Torch had an impact on their results.
In Janakpuri, #AAP candidate was defeated by 2,644 votes. Sanjay Puri, the Independent with TORCH symbol got 4,332 votes.
It may also be independents supporting each other who haven't yet formed a party, and the placement above the Aam Aadmi Party symbol could be a coincidence, though sounds like a very big coincidence.
The Aam Aadmi Party seems convinced that it was a BJP ploy to divide votes AAP got. I would have been skeptical, except the BJP swarms and anonymous accounts had already started attacking the Aam Aadmi Party over the accusation, which kinda looks like a lot of money to spend over unknown independents and their actions. Though it is also possible that the swarms discredit anything said as a default rather than this specifically.
They could be genuine candidates, but then where was the campaigning? Too many coincidences.
This needs more investigation, but I doubt if anyone has the spine to do it. So just keeping it here for now, since we seem headed for reelections anyway.
Interestingly, these are not the only allegations of independent candidates being used to sabotage a party's potential. In Madhya Pradesh, former Congress MLA Kalpana Parulekar has accused Digvijay Singh of backing at least 70 independent candidates in order to harm the chances of Scindia winning the elections.
Arun Jaitley's advocate, Pratibha Singh has sent a legal notice to blogger Prashant Panday and Arun Jaitley has posted it on his personal website as well. The blogger had made certain accusations about Jaitley's finances.
I think this is a good thing. Not the practice of sending notices to bloggers to shut them up, but the act of a politician challenging accusations of corruption himself without letting them fester and blow up into rumor mills. Of course, exposing corruption runs the risk of angering people, and a legal notice serves nicely as a weapon to try and get a corruption expose taken offline. We saw it on my blog when I got a notice over an expose I had made. So it is not as if I don't understand what happens to the blogger who cannot afford to fight legal battles.
Firstly, I believe that blogging is conversations. It is an important voice for people, but there is no logic in assuming a blogger is always correct or in dismissing the harm done to a person who is on the receiving end of bad publicity. Asserting a blogger's right to say whatever he wants regardless of the consequences to another is not a responsible call, in my opinion. Particularly when the article is published in a newspaper. As the notice states, it was published on the Times of India website as well as getting picked by a newspaper in Tripura. The Times of India piece seems to be taken down, but the Tripura one is still available online. There is no telling where else it has spread, since newspaper content does spread like wildfire.
While I am against the arbitrary imposition of a 48 hour deadline for taking down content that can be imposed by anyone at large, I am not against demanding accountability from content itself. There is no such thing as the right to slander. And inventing it will be dangerous to a country that thrives on polarization, not to mention the overall quality of information where stakes are high. This is a stand I have taken fairly consistently regardless of which political party is accused or doing the accusing.
A whistleblower ought to have documents that back up his accusations, without which it becomes malicious gossip. And the hate between political parties as well as parties basing their entire existence on anticorruption is such that a person with proofs against a politician getting a legal notice cannot be silenced as easily. Worse, the internet smelling injustice has a way of decimating attempts to silence it. The content targetted for removal would get a wider audience instead. Unlike the common man of India, the common netizen of India isn't that easily silenced.
Even in the case where the issue is not as high TRP as a politician, a whistleblower who has proofs can simply present them as proof that he is not defaming. It is not defamation if you can prove it true. My reply to the notice had presented the sources for my claims and the matter ended there. I did take down the original post for fear of legal harrassment, but I believe that if I had the time (which I don't, for personal circumstances), I could also have defended it in court, which is something that is highly unlikely to pan out if your expose is genuine. No one wants to prove themselves corrupt to avoid a blogpost.
Now look at the rest of the scene. Politicians are ganging up to avoid RTI into political parties. Our sources of accurate information are severely restricted. In such a situation, a legal notice such as this actually helps clarify the issue, in my opinion. There are claims the person is making on record. If those can be proved wrong, the whole matter becomes much simpler - in the case of a corrupt politician. If the notice makes explanations that make the sources of the accusation of corruption wrong in some manner, then it is a clarification got at relatively less effort. In any case, the accused person responding to the accusation on record has to be a plus if the objective is against corruption rather than a PR war.
Also, I think given the deteriorating standards of journalism, demanding accountability from content that can make or break the reputation of a politician in the run up to elections is hardly unreasonable. I hope that this sets off a flurry of notices against mass media by politicians who would like to set the record straight. This is also what I thought about the allegations of US citizenship of our new RBI governor Raghuram Rajan. These things must be on record and clear as a matter of transparency. It should not be a matter of either silencing a blogger/journalist or defending a politician.
In my view such actions will be very welcome in today's vile political scenario which thrives on disinformation and mud singing. They will help the common man separate manipulation from facts and empower democracy.
In my view, politicians themselves addressing accusations of corruption with any visibility will go a long way toward getting some answers while we figure out how to get the RTI working.