It was in the year 1999 when EVM, (electronic voting machine), was first introduced to record votes in Indian elections. However, controversies about the hacking of these machines are of very recent origin. May be the unscrupulous use of all possible means, with which the BJP has been fighting elections in the recent past, has brought the ghost of hacking, real or imagined, to the fore!
Hacking or no hacking of the EVM machines, the BJP did succeed well in ‘hiking’ many a gullible voter to its side through its foul mouthed campaigns in the recently concluded elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.
I, being a non-technical person, cannot debate on the technical aspects of hacking these machines. But the following true incident that I am going to narrate would prove beyond doubt that if a non-technical amateur election conductor could ‘hack’ an EVM, that too in the very first year of its induction into the Indian electoral process, the wretched politicians of the day perhaps can do it in a much better and professional manner.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the election conducting duties, on which chiefly the government staff is put, are always considered by every official as a pain in the neck.
No wonder every time the election season approaches most of the employees start looking for the ways to wriggle out from doing these apparently arduous assignments. The Hindi film ‘Newton’, India’s now out of the awards race official entry to the much famed Oscars this year, did tell of this arduousness of Indian elections graphically well.
I have been lucky enough that in my rather longish college-teaching career of thirty-six plus years I always managed to avoid performing an election duty. I would use every available recipe, from feigning illness to using socio-political links, to achieve this goal.
In 1999, during the thirteenth Lok Sabha election, this colleague of mine was not lucky like me. He was doubly ‘dukhi’ because he was posted as a presiding officer in a remotely placed polling booth in a lowly locality on the periphery of Chandigarh, which was chiefly inhabited by difficult to handle illiterate voters.
During that particular election there seemingly was an anti-Congress political atmosphere prevalent. While the majority of the politically hacked, by hook or crook, voters in that area were pro Congress, this RSS inclined angered gentleman was a staunch Congress hater.
While going in and out of the polling booth to take stock of the situation in the vicinity he observed that the Congress workers were instructing the illiterate voters the manner in which to record their votes on the newly introduced EVMs. Since the very first button on the machine was allotted to the Congress, the voters were being told to press the very first button on top of the machine.
This prompted him to devise a wicked idea to hack the EVM. He simply put the machine on the table upside down. And lo, the voters kept on pressing the top fist button on the machine which now in fact was the last.
It is another matter that the last candidate, as shown on the machine, was a non-entity and not of the hacker’s choice! It still is another story that the Congress did win that seat despite this perhaps first ever successful hacking of an EVM against it!
(Published on 26th December 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 52)