'I know most of the politicians in this country and I know how fair-weather friends they can be.'
'If they get defeated in elections, they will blame it upon something that cannot respond to their allegations like the EVMs.'
Photograph: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters
"I personally have full faith that the general election 2019 will go without any hitch provided we satisfy ourselves and the people of India that the EVMs are credible," former Chief Election Commissioner T S Krishnamurthy tells Rediff.com/Prasanna D Zore.
Has the failure/malfunctioning of EVMs and VVPATs (voter-verified paper audit trail) during the Gondia and Kairana Lok Sabha bypolls proved the critics right that there are problems with them?
First of all, you are using words like failure/malfunctioning. Whether it was a man-made failure or machine failure has to be thoroughly examined first.
I am sure the Election Commission will conduct an enquiry into how it happened and then they will come to a conclusion. But it does not, in any way, affect the credibility (of the EC).
It may be a human error, or (a problem) of improper storage or any other thing. Let an independent enquiry (report) come.
I am more than convinced, as far as the EVMs are concerned, they are the most credible (system).
At least EVMs are more credible than the ballot paper system because there have been frauds and manipulations (by politicians) with conventional paper ballots.
To say that the latter is better than EVMs is not acceptable.
I know many cases in some of the states where they (the politicians and their henchmen) stuffed bogus ballot papers and that is not an alternative.
If you have found something lacking (with the EVMs), correct it. For that the Election Commmission must hold an independent enquiry.
Whatever I understand from TV (reports), the machine and VVPATs were a problem. But that again has to be established.
Do you expect the EC to order a probe into this malfunctioning? What should be the terms of reference for such probe?
I am very certain that they will do it. Whether they will do it internally or bring some outsider, I can't say.
In order to improve the credibility of the system they can get a technical person to have a look at it.
The things that must be probed and looked into include whether the machine was itself at fault or was there any maintenance problem or whether it is training or a transportation problem.
It is difficult for us to prejudge the cause of the faults.
If necessary somebody from the IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology) could also have a look at it.
It is in the interest of the country, our democracy, and the EC, to go into the entire range of complaints and verify them.
Do you accept the EC's explanation of a 'heat wave' being responsible for malfunctioning?
It will be premature for me to comment on that and that is why I said let an independent enquiry look into these complaints.
It will be very unfair for me to comment upon it because I don't know if any junior EC official or the commissioner has said so.
Let a credible, independent, enquiry look into all these issues.
This (the EVMs) is the best system we have and the whole world admires how we announce the results within a few hours.
If there is a small deficiency, accept it and correct it. There is no harm in doing so.
I do not feel there is any deliberate manipulation in this matter, but then this is my personal opinion and it is better to have an independent enquiry establish that.
The big question now is what if such a situation were to arise during the 2019 general election.
What measures should the EC adopt to put the doubts of critics at rest?
I don't think that can happen. Apart from this, there are a few procedural things that must be looked into.
The voting population is increasing, the numbers of polling booths are increasing and the system of centralised counting should all be looked into with greater vigour.
I personally have full faith that the general election 2019 will go without any hitch, provided we satisfy ourselves and the people of India that the EVMs are credible.
How can one convince the defeated political parties that the machines are credible?
I know most of the politicians in this country and I know how fair-weather friends they can be.
If they get defeated in elections, they will blame it upon something that cannot respond to their allegations like blaming it on EVMs. The machines can't answer because they have no voice.
It is very easy to find fault with that.
The winners will vouch for the quality of the EVMs.
When two people went to the Supreme Court, the EC challenged some politicians to come and prove the inadequacies of the EVMs, nobody accepted it.
In the Karnataka elections, where nobody got a majority, nobody talked about the machines (being faulty).
I am quite used to the frustration of the defeated parties complaining about faulty EVMs.
Our democracy needs a robust election system.
Given the political discourse in the country, how can the EC be made more transparent and accountable?
Why must one doubt the transparency and credibility of the EC?
We have already made suggestions that the appointment of the election commissioner can be done by a collective body, comprising representatives of the judiciary, Opposition parties, etc so that there is some faith in the system.
And let the CEC such appointed be removed only by an impeachment motion. We will have to amend the Constitution for doing this.
In my letter of July 2004 -- available on the EC Web site -- to the prime minister, I had listed 24 recommendations to make the EC more transparent and accountable.
I had recommended the formation of a National Election Fund.
No company should give donations to any party and instead give it to the NEF.
Let these donations be 100 per cent exempt from tax. But do not provide an opportunity for a nexus between corporates and political parties. There are many areas where we can improve.
In this context, how transparent and fair are the electoral bonds introduced by this government for funding of elections and political parties?
I do not approve of electoral bonds as an improvement in the funding of elections and political parties.
The very fact that it is a bearer bond and it does not contain any detail or information (about the donor or the donee) is the problem.
My objection is corporates give money to political parties with some expectation of a quid pro quo.
How does that solve the issues of transparency in election funding?
Money is given for some policy decision to be made in their favour; that is how it happens all over the world.
Electoral bonds are neither transparent nor are they going to reduce the influence of money power in contesting elections because there is no limit for buying these electoral bonds.
All this can be got rid of if you have an NEF and a ban on individual spending. Only then will the NEF concept work.
This will also make the EC independent of budgetary allocations for conducting elections in India.
Your views on one nation, one poll: How feasible is this idea for a federal republic like India?
Theoretically, this idea is very attractive and useful in the sense that you can save a lot of taxpayers' time, money and energy if elections (to the state legislative assemblies as well as the Lok Sabha) are held simultaneously.
But the Constitution does not permit such a possibility, so again the Constitution will have to be amended.
Secondly, there is a view that periodic elections are a sign of a vibrant democracy.
Generally, I would have accepted it, but for Indian politicians who are the weakest link in our democracy.
When it comes to policy matters, they have not shown much maturity.
Our politicians should be regulated and monitored properly and transparently.
I have suggested a separate law for the formation, functioning, accountability, financial reporting, resolution of disputes, of political parties like in many other countries.
For example, there are some people who continue to head their party for years and years.
They give an impression that they have been elected, but they are nominated.
There is a need for our political parties to be legislatively regulated.