Posts Tagged ‘Election Commission’
The BJP swept the February-March, 2017 Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The instant reaction of BSP supremo Mayawati to her party’s miserable performance in Uttar Pradesh was that Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) were manipulated. Soon the Samajwadi Party and AAP leaders joined Mayawati’s outcry. Even some Congress leaders in Uttarakhand also started talking about EVM manipulation. Meanwhile, a discussion on the fragmentation of non-BJP votes in Uttar Pradesh had also started (the BJP got so many seats with a vote share of less than 40 per cent while the combined vote share of BSP and SP was over 44 per cent plus six per cent of the Congress share).
The subject of EVM manipulation has been cropping up almost from the time EVMs were introduced. A sort of campaign on this issue was launched by then Madhya Pradesh Congress President Suresh Pachouri after the 2008 Assembly elections which had returned BJP’s Shivraj Singh Chouhan for the second term. A distraught Pachouri had threatened to expose EVM manipulations with the help of his “friends in the UK and the US”.
Before Pachouri could carry out his threat, Lal Krishna Advani jumped in the fray after the BJP lost the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and his dream of becoming the Prime Minister was shattered. He demanded discontinuation of EVMs and going back to the printed ballot papers. Advani’s demand was supported by the leaders of various parties like the AIADMK, CPI (M), Janata Dal (S) and the Lok Janshakti Party. Advani had the support of a bureaucrat also. Former Delhi chief secretary Omesh Saigal had surfaced to claim that he knew a secret code in the EVM, through which the machine could be programmed to transfer every fifth vote to a particular candidate. Petitions were filed in courts on the fallibility of EVMs, one of the most vocal petitioners being BJP’s Kirit Somaiya.
There was so much noise in the country that the Election Commission felt it had to do something. In August 2009, the Commission randomly obtained 100 EVMs from 10 States (Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh). The Commission invited political leaders, petitioners and other critics of EVMs and also made the media announcement that the EVMs would be kept in the Commission office for a specified period and anyone could come and show how these machines could be manipulated. No one did. The EVM bogey, though, has one merit. It keeps occupied the politicians who have been defeated in the elections and have nothing else to do at the moment.
The Delhi High Court has not helped further the cause of transparency in public life by staying the direction of the Central Information Commission (CIC) to Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to permit examination of Class XII records of Union Textiles Minister Smriti Irani. The High Court order was based on a petition filed by the CBSE which had claimed that the records were ‘personal information’.
It defies comprehension how someone’s educational qualifications can be ‘personal information’. The matter was raised earlier before a Metropolitan Magistrate who had also dismissed the petition with the argument that the ‘complainant (petitioner) may not have filed it if she was not a Central Minister’. The Magistrate had also noted ‘a great delay of 11 years’ in filing the complaint.
If one’s educational qualification falls in the category of ‘personal information’, then one’s criminal record should also be treated as ‘personal information’. After prolonged deliberations, the Election Commission of India has made it mandatory for aspirants to enter Parliament or a Legislature to make public all information about the prospective candidate including educational and criminal records.
The Election Commission has not taken it upon itself to scrutinise the accuracy of the particulars given by a candidate. It is left to the alert citizens to find through proper channels if the information given by a candidate is true or false.
The Metropolitan Magistrate’s argument that information about Smriti Irani’s educational records was being sought only because she is a Central Minister is also specious. People are interested in finding out the veracity of her claims only because she is an important public figure.
Forgery is fast becoming a norm rather than exception in India and is quite visible in educational fields. The Vyapam Scam of Madhya Pradesh Government can be cited as an example in which politicians, bureaucrats, judicial officers, police officers and free-lance racketeers joined hands for decades and destroyed careers of honest, hardworking youth. Smriti Irani’s stubborn resistance to her educational records being made public only confirms the suspicion that there may be something fishy about her educational claims. The Judiciary’s attitude can, at best, be described only as retrograde.