THE WORLD LAUGHED when Donald Trump, initially unsure of his victory and riled by the higher popular vote Hillary Clinton got, floated a theory that the US election was rigged and declared he would not accept the verdict unless he won.
Conspiracy theories crop up everywhere. The high-pressure campaign in the social media in India in favour of Narendra Modi was attributed by his detractors, mostly of Congress, as the handiwork of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Later, when BJP won, the supporters were dubbed Modi ‘Bhaktas’ (worshippers).
Then Pappu jokes involving Rahul Gandhi inundated the social media and the ‘Dynasty Devotees’ (DD) of Congress which wants one family to rule the country for ever, failed to effectively counter them.
Now the PM himself directly communicates with the people through his novel Man Ki Baat broadcasts, Twitter tweets and apps which allow people to post their ideas and suggestions to him. No Prime MInister ever did this in the country – or perhaps anywhere in the world. This is in sharp contrast with a predecessor who was known more for his silence and rare monotonous read-out speeches.
The jokes about ‘Pappu’ Rahul Gandhi have become rare now. They would have continued if they were the handiwork of a hired team and not the general public. The latest was when BJP, in the face of opposition from former alley Shiv Sena, increased its tally in Mumbai Municipal Corporation elections from 31 to 82. It said the election results were a big blow to Rahul Gandhi’s reputation as the Congress lost badly even without him addressing a single rally in Mumbai! The BJP reaped a rich harvest in local bodies elections all over Maharashtra as it did in all the elections held after the NDA government came to power.
So the DDs, who started using the social media to post against the government and Modi, had to do something to grab attention. Their concerted efforts to demonise demonetisation having failed, they struck on a conspiracy theory – that the EVMs (Electronic Voting Machines) were being rigged and that a paper trail of all the votes cast should be maintained.
A Maharashtrian IAS officer, who has no political affiliations, countered the posts about rigged EVMs, pointing out that they are made by Bharat Electronics Ltd., a prestigious public-sector unit acclaimed the world over for its work on equipment for missiles and space and that they were ‘randomised’ before despatch to polling booths so that which machine would go to which booth is not known in advance.
He said the EVMs were not interlinked like computers that are hacked through the Internet. Before commencement of polling the candidates and/or their agents are allowed to examine the machines and testing done to their satisfaction.
The State administration has no control over BEL or EVMs and if any rigging had to take place, the entire election machinery comprising thousands of officers would have to be involved. The independent Election Commission supervises the electoral process and all efforts to make it transparent are taken, the officer said.
The Commission, through its observers and through an election dashboard, closely monitors the polling and candidates’ campaigns. The EC has provided for sample voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) at some centres. To ask for covering all the booths under VVPAT is like making photo copies of all the old files before destroying them – defeating the very purpose.
The Congress Party has taken its political campaign to the lowest levels. If politics are so dirty most right-thinking intelligent people would like not to participate in the political process and such a situation, to quote Socrates, could only result in “fools and knaves” ruling the country.
It can call its opponents dogs and donkeys and hurl all sorts of abuses at them, but a hues and cry is raised if any remarks are made against the dynasty controlling it. I had seen how elections used to be rigged till 1967. Congress governments in states like Bihar were using the entire government machinery to help its candidates. In one state, I was told police used to surround an entire village, warn dalit (oppressed class) voters not to vote and cast all the votes. There were separate ballot boxes for the candidates. Most of the votes were put in the Congress box with a few dropped into others just to make a show of impatriality.
In one polling booth I saw a boy, hardly 14, casting a vote. I caught his hand and asked how old he was. He said he was 18, but voting age then was 21. When I asked the presiding officer – who could have arrested me for entering the booth – took me aside and told me, “Do you see all those party agents wearing badges of Jana Sangh, PSP (Praja Socialist Party – now extinct) and others? They are all Congressmen and unless one of them objects, I cannot do anything. Booth capturing and bogus voting are normal here.” In some states in North, booth capturing was a profession.
Congress talked of electoral reforms for decades without any action. The sway of the three Cs – caste, cash and coercion- in Indian elections has to be ended.