New Delhi: Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad Friday backed the use of electronic voting machines (EVM). He said there was a need to trust the Election Commission and respect the sanctity of the institution. The endorsement has come on Friday that happens to be the National Voters’ Day, observed on every 25 January as the Election Commission was established on this day in 1950.
Prasad’s remarks came a day after Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora asserted that the EC would not be “intimidated or bullied” into giving up EVMs and going back to the era of ballot boxes.
On Monday, a self-proclaimed cyber expert, addressing a press conference in London via video while keeping his face masked, had claimed the machines can be hacked and that the 2014 Lok Sabha elections were rigged. Following his claims, several opposition parties have demanded the use of ballot papers in the coming Lok Sabha polls even as the wild claim left the Congress, Samajwadi Party, BSP and Aam Aadmi Party thoroughly embarrassed, as the shadowy character had said these parties rig the EVM, too!
“I do not wish to make a political comment. I wish to say it with all respect that the same machine has shown the victory of my party (BJP) and also the defeat of my party. The same machine has shown regional players getting success time and time again,” Prasad said. He made these remarks at a National Voters Day event organised by the EC where President Ram Nath Kovind and CEC Arora were present.
The minister said the kind of trust the poll panel has shown in new technology backed by “most profound technical oversight is something we all need to respect”. He said the elections in India and the conduct of elections are being discussed globally. “We need to trust EC, respect the sanctity of the institution of EC,” he said.
Opposition brazens it out
On Thursday, the Congress had said it sounds “strange” when the Election Commission presents itself as an advocate for EVMs.
Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said the Election Commission has been entrusted the task to conduct elections and it should take the views of various stakeholders, including people and political parties, before arriving at such a decision.
“It looks strange and odd sometimes when the Election Commission presents itself and acts as an advocate of the EVMs,” he had told reporters.
Addressing an international conference here on Thursday, Arora had said, “We are open to any criticism, any feedback, from any stakeholders, including political parties, because they are the biggest stakeholders. But at the same time, we are not going to be intimidated or bullied or pressurised or coerced into giving up these (EVMs and paper trail machines) and starting the era of ballot boxes.”
Prasad’s remarks on EVMs assume significance as the law ministry is responsible for answering questions in Parliament related to the EC. The law ministry is also the nodal ministry to handle amendments in election laws.
Puducherry CEO lends support to EVM
Puducherry Chief Electoral Officer V Candavelou Friday said the present system of exercising franchise through Electronic Voting Machines in elections “is tamper-proof and most reliable.”
Presiding over the ninth “National Voters Day” celebrations here, he said “unnecessary and ugly propaganda was being made now against EVM-based voting. Such propaganda will not hold water and hence is untenable.”
He said EVM-based voting is “tamper and failure-proof and has proved its reliability during the elections in the past.”
The Puducherry CEO said the Election Commission had also introduced the VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) system and hence there was no room for any irregularity.
“All propaganda against EVMs is absurd and false,” he added.
UPSC Member and former Puducherry Chief Secretary M Sathiavathy, who handed over voter identity cards to new voters at the event, suggested to the Election commission to introduce e-voting system which would enable migrant voters to exercise their franchise.
She urged the new voters to ensure they mobilised those who had not registered their names in the voters’ list and help them register.
“It is not only registration that is important. The registered voters should also exercise their franchise without fail during the polls,” she said calling for separate queues at polling stations for senior citizens.
She recalled her service in Puducherry as chief secretary and said the union territory had established a good percentage of voting at the elections.
She administered the pledge to the new voters and distributed prizes for winners of various competitions held in connection with National Voters Day.
Chief Secretary Ashwani Kumar said democracy was very vibrant in the country adding all voters had the primary responsibility to vote without fail as they are makers of their destiny.
A mobile awareness rally highlighting the features of EVM and VVPAT was also flagged off.