News APP

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  gplay  » News » 'High time we bring back paper ballots'

'High time we bring back paper ballots'

February 29, 2024 10:04 IST
Get Rediff News in your Inbox:

'How come the BJP won even in the Muslim belt? I am 100% sure that the BJP would not win in the Muslim belt.'

IMAGE: EVMs being distributed on the eve of the Rajasthan assembly elections. Photograph: ANI Photo

Though EVMs or Electronic Voting Machines were first used in 1982 in 50 booths in Kerala, it was in the 2004 parliamentary elections that they were used in a big way in an Indian election.

According to the then Chief Election Commissioner T S Krishnamurthy, it was an excellent reform.

But from then onwards, the losing parties questioned the credible working of the machine.

If the Bharatiya Janata Party criticised it when election results went against the party, the Opposition parties, mainly the Congress, is a harsh critic of the machine now.

But not just the political parties but civil society members have also started talking about the need to bring back paper ballots for the better functioning of the democracy.

Dr Udit Raj, who represented the North West Delhi constituency in the Lok Sabha as a BJP MP between 2014 and 2019, is the convenor of the EVM Hatao Morcha, which has been organising protests against EVMs.

Now a member of the Congress party -- he left the BJP in 2019 -- he was arrested along with Digvijay Singh during an anti-EVM protest.

A day after the arrest, Udit Raj spoke to's Shobha Warrier on why he has been protesting against the use of EVMs.


What made you start this protest against EVMs?

It was after I came to know that the software used in the EVMs is not free from manipulation and that in many countries, the use of EVMs in elections was stopped because of this reason.

Those countries are more advanced and educated than India.

When the EVM was first introduced in this country, there was not much advancement in the digital arena. Today we know that it can be manipulated in many ways.

This is not my opinion alone. That's why the Citizens' Commission on Elections was set up in 2020 to critically analyse whether the electoral process was conducted according to democratic principles.

An expert committee under people like Justice Mohan Lokur, retired IAS officer M G Devasahayam, etc consulted the top technocrats of the country and the world, and came to the conclusion that EVMs are not tamper-proof, and not free from manipulation and hacking.

The third reason is, I heard about a complaint lodged by a person in Chhattisgarh that in the booth where his entire family and he had voted, even those votes were not counted. Where did those votes disappear? There are many such examples.

You said that it was because of EVM manipulation that the Congress lost the recent assembly elections.

Yes, the EVMs were manipulated in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. Even the BJP members had said that they would not win these states, but when the results came, they won.

How come the BJP won even in the Muslim belt? I am 100% sure that the BJP would not win in the Muslim belt.

That's the reason why we decided to have a EVM Hatao Morcha to protest against the use of EVMs in elections.

We feel it's high time we bring back paper ballots.

IMAGE: Udit Raj, left, along with supporters is arrested by the Delhi police during an EVM Hatao Morcha protest, February 22, 2024. Photograph: Kind courtesy Udit Raj/X

Do you feel paper ballots are important in a democracy?

There are not many countries in the world that use EVMs. Even a country like Bangladesh has gone back to ballot papers. Why not India?

The reason given by the Election Commission for continuing with EVMs was that ballot papers were very cumbersome, the elections become a lengthy process, etc.

You just can't compare the cost of papers to the price we have to pay for democracy.

Once when I interviewed the chief election commissioner about the doubts people have about the functioning of EVMs, he categorically said they could not be manipulated...

Then, why was it that the BJP complained about EVMs in the Supreme Court when they were not in power?

Do you feel it helps the party in power?

It all depends on the morality of the ruling party. If the Congress had wanted, it could have remained in power forever. But they didn't.

IMAGE: Digvijay Singh and others at the anti-EVM protest. Photograph: Kind courtesy Udit Raj

The general belief is that Narendra Damodardas Modi will come back to power.

I see south India not voting for Modi and there will be tension between the northern and southern part of India.

When Karnataka gets just Rs 13 from every Rs 100 paid to the centre as tax, do you know how much UP gets? Rs 333!

Data shows most of the taxes that come from the south is used in states like UP and for constructing temples, publicity for the ruling party, etc which the southern states feel as unfair.

Then, the governors in the southern states are always on warpath with the state governments trying to impose their Hindutva agenda.

After talking to many political leaders from the south, I have found that they are frustrated.

If the BJP comes back to power, many things will happen in the country. They will scrap the Constitution; they will suppress Dalits and OBCs and Brahmins will control the system. This will result in chaos.

IMAGE: Udit Raj speaks at the protest. Photograph: Kind courtesy Udit Raj

With the construction of the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya, don't you feel the BJP has been able to consolidate all Hindus?

See, the people of this country have this habit of stopping and praying with folded hands in front of even a tree if there is some colour or a picture of God on it.

They live in an unreal world.

They are not bothered about joblessness or hunger. You see protests and fights in the name of religion and caste, but nobody protests for price rise or unemployment.

You see caste wars, you see tension between Hindus and Muslims, but you will not see people fighting for jobs.

Has the Opposition lost hope in the coming elections? Have you conceded defeat?

The Opposition has not lost any hope, but Indian media has created a narrative that the Opposition has already lost the elections.

The entire media is with the BJP, and they talk as if Modi has already won the elections.

You had a brief association with the BJP when your party merged with the BJP and you won the 2014 elections as a BJP MP. How was that period for you?

I saw that the RSS laboratory is all the time involved in issues like Hindu-Muslim, Hindu-Christian, Hindu rituals, Ram Mandir, Hindu Rashtra, etc. They have no other agenda.

It was frustrating for a person like me. That's why I joined the Congress.

IMAGE: A view of the protest against EVMs. Photograph: Kind courtesy Udit Raj

Does the Congress have any leader who can stand up to Narendra Modi?

The Congress has an honest leader. The Congress follows democratic norms.

The BJP is only interested in Hindutva and not the welfare of the people.

When they were in the Opposition, they opposed EVMs, they were against Aadhar, they were against MSP.

Now that they are in power, they are supporting all the things they were against earlier.

More than the power of leadership, what is more effective for the BJP is the use of ED, CBI, etc.

The BJP has been telling lies, and selling dreams all the time. They do not adhere to any morals. They are crushing people using bulldozers. But people have fallen for their false propaganda.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

Get Rediff News in your Inbox:
India Votes 2024

India Votes 2024