Yesterday (on 28th December, 2015) Santosh Desai ( @desaisantosh ) published his opinion column titled “2015: The Empire Strikes back” in TOI(Times of India) Delhi edition newspaper. Mr Desai has often expressed optimism in the future of Indian democracy and has been a keen observer of the historical political trends especially of the last 4-5 years. I have often found him amongst the few rare writers who are very forward looking.
When I did read his statements in the column yesterday which were courageously frank like :
“ There is much deeper question here. Is change of a meaningful kind at all possible in India…”,
“Is there something inexorable and deep in the way the polity functions that makes change a virtual impossibility”
“For a brief period, it looked as if the impetus for change would come from a new vision of a more participative form of democracy, but those hopes lie in tatters.”
I do think that a pessimism has grown in the intellectuals class and that predictably hope is being questioned by them again. The world belongs to the new and the young. The ones who have a stake in the future have a responsibility to shun such pessimism how so ever well intentioned it may be from the intellectuals.
I respond to Santosh. He is much older to me and I seek his forgiveness if ever I do sound disrespectful.
The future is bright, Santosh.
Over the last few years, the political discourse has changed so radically that the fear of politicians at least in the metros has almost disappeared. You find Radio jockeys taking such digs at senior political figures which was unthinkable even till 2010. An Anupam Kher in 2010 was issued a privilege motion by Sanjay Nirupam in the Maharashtra assembly for questioning the political class. Such digs at political class are a common place now.
Pilots, least of all Air India’s, never refused entry to late coming VIPs in their planes. But now , we have all heard of how the Kerala governor, a lazy retired Supreme Court judge, was snubbed by the national carrier’s pilot. I couldn’t have called the Kerala governor “a lazy retired Supreme Court judge” in public, a clear disrespect to his post from me, and not be scared of a witch hunt.
Things have changed radically and irreversibly over the last few years. This is the decade of change. The change by the end of the decade will be of gargantuan proportions. Perhaps because we have such a very open social media that its not possible to control any individual now. Yet the credit for the change must go not to the technology but to the Indian people. The Arab Spring has totally misused the social media and the revolution there has turned violent. Pakistan and other countries too have the same tool, but its only in India that the change is happening rapidly and non-violently.
I must take your much deeper question head on where you questioned existence of something inexorable and deep in the way Indian polity functions.
Yes. It exists. It is deep. And very well hidden from common discourse. But its not inexorable at all.
Democracy means not only the right to elect, but it also means right to get elected to the eligible. Dictatorships are controlled by giving the eligible the right to vote but not the right to get elected. Go deep in the direction of how the right to get elected for the legally eligible is curtailed in India, and you would find where that deep problem (and not an insurmountable one) lies.
It is of course not possible for me to briefly show here what that deep rot is which can be easily removed. However, I would briefly point where an answer would lie to one of your question on the Parliament logjam.
If the government is in minority in the Rajya Sabha, why should the leader of the house be from the government at all? Why should the government at all be able to have the final say in the conduct of business of the Rajya Sabha, even what bills and motion to be moved in it? Identify the reason for that contradiction and the log jam in Rajya Sabha can be resolved.
Answers to our questions and the deep rot can be found only if we promise not to give up on hope. We have achieved a lot. The youth are as responsible as any other time. Hope, achievements and debates remain their quintessential characters. The hope must remain unquestionably alive. That’s what has brought us so far.
We’ll have the good life within our life time. The empire is already crumbling.
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.
It is not too difficult to understand why people lose faith in the Congress. This reminds me of what a village woman had once said. "If they can't prove you wrong, they will make you filthy to prove themselves right"