The Indian Election Commission on Wednesday rightly rejected the request from some 22 opposition political parties to make eleventh-hour changes in the way votes are counted.
The shocking demand, maybe a first in democratic elections, stemmed from a fear that the opposition is going to lose the general elections badly when votes are counted on May 23.
Most exit polls released on May 19 indicated that the so-called grand alliance of opposition parties will face a crushing defeat. They panicked and rushed to the office of the Election Commission of India on May 22.
They met Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora and demanded that paper slips from the voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) module are matched before votes on electronic voting machines (EVMs) are counted. If there is any mismatch, all votes in the assembly segment concerned can be cross-checked with the paper slips, they argued.
Arora rejected the opposition demand saying that EC, an independent institution, follows a standard operation procedure and counting will be delayed by a day or two if paper slips from VVPAT are counted first.
The opposition parties very well knew that their demand for procedural changes in the counting of votes at the last minute will not be accepted by the EC. But their visit to the office had a deeper purpose.
By raising doubts about the efficiency of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and demanding changes in the way votes are counted, they wanted to leave an impression in the minds of voters that the National Democratic Front (NDA) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was going to “win” the 2019 general elections by manipulating the EVMs with the help of poll officials.
While trying to save their faces, the opposition insulted millions of voters, the Election Commission and India’s democracy.
Exit polls are just an indication. The opposition could have patiently waited until most elections results are announced by late Thursday. If they find any discrepancy, they had ample time to examine the cases before moving the Supreme Court.
It is unfortunate that a section of politicians unfairly sullied the reputation of EC.
If the results of the exit polls prove true, these parties could have gracefully accepted defeat instead of sowing seeds of distrust on EC and EVMs in the minds of millions of voters. The damage is done.
Besides EC, the Supreme Court had given directives to dispel any doubts on the voting and counting process.
Early this month, the top court dismissed a review petition by 21 opposition parties on its April ruling rejecting 50% random physical counting of EVM-VVPAT.
It also directed the EC to increase physical counting of VVPAT slips from one to five random EVMs in each Assembly segment/constituency.
Many people wonder why the opposition parties remained silent on EVMs when they won assembly elections in three central states last year.
When opposition wins elections, EVMs are all right for them but when they lose polls, they question the machines. Voters find this logic baffling.
Counting begins in a few hours. Politicians should allow the country to choose its government.