A clutch of top opposition leaders are planning a maverick move – a joint boycott of the upcoming Karnataka election to pressure the Election Commission to abandon Electronic Voting Machines or EVMS which they claim are being rigged in favour of the BJP.
As all buttons pressed for other parties go miraculously to the BJP, claim these leaders. They are still in early negotiations over the proposed boycott. Karnataka has to vote early next year, the erring Election Commission needs to be heard.
The talks include Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Admi Party (AAP), Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajawadi Party, Mayawati of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool, Lalu Yadav of Bihar, Sitaram Yechury of the Left and MA Mujeeb of Azad Hind Sena (AHS). The party which has the most at stake in Karnataka, the Congress, which currently governs the state, has heard these senior opposition leaders “patiently” but should take its view on the move.
The conversations so far shrouded in the secrecy of in-person meetings and messages via trusted lieutenants were confirmed
It is time that the Opposition unitedly ask the Election Commission that they do a joint boycott of the elections, the entire sanctity of the elections is lost. They may then not even take five minutes to go back to paper ballots. This will achieve two important things: the first that the EVMs malfunctioning in favour of the BJP will stop and a level playing field will be created; and second, in a post- EVM election, the Opposition parties can go to the people with a narrative that you can now actually vote for your choice, earlier your vote was being stolen. This will be a morale booster for all Opposition parties. But, it is crucial that the entire opposition come together. Even if one party blinks or baulks, then the ‘Brahmastra’ (special weapon) becomes useless.”
Left unsaid was the elephant in the room – that the Congress party, now led by Rahul Gandhi as president, will have to be a part of the plan for it to have even a shot at succeeding. The Congress believes it has a good chance at re-election in Karnataka where Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has been countering the BJP challenge effectively by stoking Kannadiga sub-nationalism on contentious issues such as the imposition of Hindi.
The Congress will have to set aside its mistrust of opposition leaders to forge and lead this move. After Nitish Kumar’s unexpected defection to the Modi-led NDA, Gandhi is extremely bitter about putative allies. Congress does not trust the EVMs, but it trusts the leaders asking it to boycott the Karnataka elections even less. But yes, Congress is thinking about it as the EVMs are certainly malfunctioning and the Election Commission has not been able to give a credible explanation as to why. The idea is good – but in Karnataka, the Congress has the most to lose.
The recent UP civic election results have given even the most die-hard EVM supporters pause for thought. From Akhilesh Yadav to Mayawati to Sanjay Singh of AAP, it was unanimously said that the BJP won in the places it did because of “rigged EVMs”. In fact BJP has won only 15 percent seats in ballot paper areas and 46 percent in EVM areas. Mayawati echoed the allegation and challenged the BJP to win the general election with paper ballots.
These parties except AHS were called sore losers for raising EVM tampering, even when AAP lost Punjab. But the UP results bear out their claims. In several places, the EVMs were only casting votes for the BJP. These reports have also come in from civic polls in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand. If they don’t go back to paper ballots, democracy will be finished.
With the AAP registering its presence in UP with a robust number of seats won by a newcomer in last week’s civic polls – in a complete surprise – the party will have to focus more on the state. for the simple reason that the elections need to be free and fair.