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Opinion | For a paper trail truce

For the sake of a healthy democracy, both the Opposition and the Election Commission should adopt a conciliatory approach on the matter of EVMs

The Supreme Court’s order declining a further increase in the number of polling booths for Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) verification against their Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trails (VVPATs) may have settled the issue legally, but the political storm is unlikely to die down. Opposition parties plan to approach the Election Commission (EC) again, urging a reconsideration of their demand for the verification of at least a quarter of all EVMs. Currently, the EC is required to verify EVMs in only five randomly selected booths in every Lok Sabha constituency, which the opposition says constitutes just about 2% of all EVMs. The question is: will the EC concede?

The top court’s order means that the EC isn’t legally bound to, and can proceed with the rest of the elections unhindered. But a dismissive stance may allow suspicions over EVMs to fester. A better course would be adopt an accommodative stance and cede some ground in the interest of strengthening public confidence in the functioning of EVMs. If 25% is too much, an increase to perhaps 15% or even 10% could be considered. That would help restore confidence in Indian elections among EVM doubters. They may be few in number, but in a democratic set-up like ours that seeks to give an equal voice to everyone, it is best that no one feels let down by the system. Even if this is impossible to achieve, disgruntlement levels can surely be reduced. The EC should be seen to be doing all it can to gain the confidence of the entire electorate.

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At the same time, opposition parties should show more flexibility and admit the logic of the current random sample’s sufficiency. Statistically speaking, if randomly selected, a small fraction of all EVMs verified is all it takes to confirm that they work fine. For the sake of a healthy democracy, both the Opposition and the EC should adopt a conciliatory approach on the matter.

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