A recent incident in Maharashtra has reignited the debate over the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in Indian elections. The controversy arose when a relative of Shiv Sena leader Ravindra Waikar allegedly brought a mobile phone inside a counting centre to generate an OTP that unlocked an EVM. It is alleged that the phone was connected to the EVM and used to generate an ‘unlocking’ OTP. 

This incident has intensified calls from various political figures in India to replace EVMs with traditional ballot papers. 

Former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy has been vocal in his criticism of EVMs. He argued that returning to paper ballots would uphold the true spirit of democracy. 

On Tuesday, he posted on X (formerly Twitter), “Just as justice should not only be served but should also appear to have been served, so should democracy not only prevail but must appear to be prevalent undoubtedly. In electoral practices across the world, in almost every advanced democracy, paper ballots are used, not EVMs. We too must move towards the same in upholding the true spirit of our democracy.”

The Congress party also endorsed the proposition to replace EVMs with ballot papers. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi intensified criticism by likening EVMs to a “black box” and accusing the government of stifling dissent on the issue. He pointed out a lack of transparency in the electoral process, which he believes undermines democracy.

Maharashtra Congress President Nana Patole questioned the central government’s reluctance to revert to ballot papers. He highlighted concerns about the reliability of EVMs and cited examples from developed countries like the US and Japan that use paper ballots. Patole said, “Voting is our fundamental right. There is a question in front of people if their vote gets delivered in favour of the candidate they vote for. Why doesn’t the central government use ballot paper for voting?” 

Shiv Sena (UBT) MP Priyanka Chaturvedi urged the Electoral Commission of India (ECI) to assure voters that “constitutional methods” wouldn’t be affected and that the elections would be “free and fair.” 

CPI General Secretary D Raja also expressed doubts about the credibility of EVMs.

In a recent post on X, billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk also pitched for eliminating EVMs. Elon Musk said, “We should eliminate electronic voting machines. The risk of being hacked by humans or AI, while small, is still too high.” This led to criticism from many Indians, although Musk was likely referring to US EVMs.

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Published: 18 Jun 2024, 04:36 PM IST

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