Mahesh Vijapurkar

A Mumbai taxi driver from UP had heard of an exit poll giving BJP a majority and he was convinced it was some advance insight by fraud, including peeping into the EVMs.

He didn’t have the patience to understand the process of conducting exit polls and insisted that it was by mischief.

The outcome did not match his religion-based political affiliation back in his gaon. It was the losers' argument which Mayawati has proffered for her loss and so had the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena for the comprehensive defeat after a poor campaign in Mumbai civic elections. Except pointing out to themselves as the cause, faults have to be found elsewhere and alibis built. That is a manifestation of poor leadership which cannot accept the outcomes.

The EVMs are being faulted again after the elections to the five states – UP, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur, and Goa – and SP and MNS cadres have lighted holi of their (EVMs) effigies. The massive gains by the BJP which is forging ahead on the strength of perceptions to secure popular legitimacy has triggered the fear of tampering though no one has convincingly proved it could be done.

Indian elections are as fair as is possible with the Election Commission of India using manpower drawn largely from a system that is corrupt to the bone. The booth-level polling officers to the returning officers, and the police that guard the machines are all drawn from it. Unlike any other time, they conduct themselves with a sense of positive purpose and commitment unseen during their normal daily duties in governance.

The writ of the EC runs and it has the mandate which it takes seriously. Since the introduction of EVMs, and later the voter identity cards, booth capturing has become a thing of the past. The impersonation is rare and few instances of a voter needing to cast a ‘tendered vote’ are few. The ECI has and uses its wide-ranging powers, including transferring a chief secretary or a DGP at a moment’s notice for instant compliance.

That a suspect section of the country can be and is held to good performance and are able to deliver is more a negative commentary on how we have allowed a good system with built-in checks and balances to go to rot. It is only at election time that the good in them comes out to conduct the process with integrity. If there is mischief, it is among the politicians – black money, bribery, false promises. If only they could be bridled to good conduct.

The election process is working better than it did when Sukumar Sen was assigned to task by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1950. Sen had to work out everything, from symbols to help connect with the illiterate voters to the huge logistics of sending ballots and ballot boxes across rivers and hills and securing them back to count. The finetuning has been a constant endeavor.

The EC’s one regret is that politicians have refused to put their parties under the ambit of the Right to Information Act and bring more transparency to their accounting. If this were done, the flow of cash to overspend a rival’s budget and buy virtually everything – from space in the media (for paid news) to votes could be reduced. But it is here that the political establishment balks and when they lose, of late, start blaming the EVMs.

Like blaming the dance floors when one cannot dance. But that abovementioned taxi driver, like most others in the country, are keener on convenient outcomes than believing that a clean system should be built where the word suspicion should not exist. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that things can be mischief-free in India? Used to venality and misgovernance, we don’t seem to know better.