Violence at the polling booths was one of the first of the hurdles the system faced in its infancy.
The first phase of the 2019 marathon polls was a microcosm of all the problems India has been facing in election dynamics for decades plus emerging ones like rising anger against EVMs. Violence at the polling booths was one of the first of the hurdles the system faced in its infancy. The old booth capturing techniques may have been scotched by the powers given to the Election Commission. If the problem persists, as in its most acute form in Andhra where Chandrababu Naidu of Telugu Desam is in do-or-die battle mode against Jagan Reddy of YSR Congress plus Pawan Kalyan, it goes to show that even the realisation about the mindlessness of such violence has not seen it dissipate with time. Even one death by poll violence is a blot against India’s civilised system of voting. The stray IED-triggered blasts by left extremists are illustrative of underlying social tensions finding an outlet against symbols of democracy like elections.
The malfunctioning of EVMs is not a new phenomenon, but it is a niggling one at a time when politicians — generally those who end up on the losing side — are raging against a system that enables quick voting and counting in a country of humongous population. Breaking them, as one legislator did in Anantapur, must invite exemplary punishment because this militates against the very root of how we have chosen to conduct modern polls, hopefully with greater numbers of VVPAT (voter-verified paper audit trails), if only to convince ourselves of its efficacy despite the small proportion of glitches, say 400 in about 50,000 EVMs in Andhra Pradesh. Given the encouraging turnout, including in terror-affected Baramulla in Kashmir, there is no reason to believe that anyone is keeping away only because EVMs are being used to record and count the votes. The EVM has come to stay as an abiding symbol of the Indian election, but the system must improve for its foolproof recording of votes to be functioning at its highest efficiency at poll time.
The biggest letdown in the conduct of the 2019 polls arises from the poor keeping of the electoral rolls. What is particularly galling is that some who cast their votes as recently as in the Telangana state assembly elections last December found their names missing at the booth on Thursday. In this day and age, it should be possible to protest lists of eligible voters through periodical additions and deletions. Blockchain technology might come in useful towards preserving the sanctity of the poll rolls with each addition and deletion recorded. Those who are on the rolls and haven’t changed their residence should never find their names missing. Updating of rolls may be a continuous process but it is obviously being done in a flawed manner. The care taken to conduct free and fair polls should not suffer from lack of effort towards maintaining the rolls.