By Ashwin Aghor

The Congress-led Opposition seems to be smelling 2014 again.

It has already found a scapegoat — the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM). Even before the counting of votes, stalwarts such as Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar and president of the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) Ashok Chavan have come up with bizarre excuses and arguments.

Pawar tried to link the possible defeat of his daughter Supriya Sule from Baramati to lack of people’s faith in democracy. Chavan has gone a step further. He demanded that cell phone jammers be installed at the places where EVMs are stored, since they could be tampered with using the signals from cell phone towers.

Congress’s mobile fairy tale

This is probably the most bizarre argument about EVM hacking. Chavan met the state chief electoral officer on May 6. He claimed that the machines can be tampered using signals from cell phone towers and wi-fi networks.

“EVMs can be manipulated using wireless networks such as wi-fi and cell phone tower signals. We have demanded that jammers be installed at all the strong rooms where EVMs are stored as well as, during the counting of votes,” Chavan said.

A senior government official who worked as zonal officer during polling in Phase 4 in Mumbai and Thane strongly refuted the claims that EVMs could be hacked.

“I don’t know the motive behind the claims. But I can vouch that no one can hack or tamper with EVMs. All the machines used for polling undergo thorough checking. It involves representatives of the candidates from the booth where the machine is going to be used. Everyone gets to check and verify the machine before actual polling. The machine is used for polling only after every candidate or his representative is satisfied that it is working fine.”

Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said, “There are doubts about EVMs across the world. Many experts have claimed that it could be hacked. So, we want to take all precaution till it is established beyond doubt that EVM cannot be hacked in any condition or by any means.”

But Sawant dodged the question why Congress never doubted EVMs when it won the elections, such as in the Nanded Municipal Corporation and the recently conducted Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. Reacting to the EC’s open challenge to hack EVMs, Sawant said, “It had put unviable conditions. One was not allowed touch the machine. How can it be hacked without touching it?”

NCP’s democracy fantasy

Even NCP leaders were singing the same tune earlier. Pawar had started the anti-EVM campaign immediately after the first phase of polling. He said the UPA enjoyed public support but the outcome was uncertain in view of EVM hacking. Pawar ended the campaign by claiming that people will lose faith in democracy if Supriya Sule lost from Baramati. Supriya Sule, sitting MP from Baramati, won in 2014 with an unimpressive margin of 70,000 votes against NDA’s Mahadev Jankar.

Chief spokesperson of Maharashtra BJP Madhav Bhandari laughed away Chavan’s claim. “It amounts to fuelling and spreading blind faith. I fail to understand why they are always eager to prove their lack of knowledge.”

Reacting to Pawar’s statement, Bhandari said, “It is a feudal mentality. What is he trying to say? Does he have monopoly on democracy? This is completely unacceptable. This shows how they have kept democracy and the nation in their clutches for so many years. The frustration is only out of realisation that they are losing worse than 2014.”