SPECULATION: The unexpected margin of victory with the BJP improving on its 2014 performance has raised doubts on whether the EVMs were rigged.
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when questions were raised about the integrity of the Election Commission. For a Saturday following the week when the Modi government undermined law enforcement agencies like the CBI and the enforcement directorate. For a Saturday following the week when attempts were made to destroy the independence of the judiciary. For a Saturday following the week when the Modi government sought to politicize even the arm forces. For a Saturday following the week when the Modi government interfered with the functioning of the Reserve Bank of India. For a Saturday following the week when the media was virtually taken over by the Modi government, raising questions over the validity of the exit polls.
EC LOSES CREDIBILITY
And a few stray thoughts on the Election Commission which is the backbone of our democracy losing its credibility. Historically the Election Commission has been considered the most independent organisation since it has the responsibility to ensure that voting is conducted in a free and fair manner unlike in countries like Russia and China where the voting is rigged and a mere formality as the president and prime minister are pre-decided.
In the past, India’s Election Commission has won the admiration of the international community. But this is no longer so, with questions raised about the EVMs themselves. It has been alleged that the EVMs can be manipulated. During the recently concluded elections it has been alleged that even if you pressed the Congress button the EVM machines give the vote to the BJP. To at least partially deal with such doubts, the Election Commission introduced a verification procedure where by a paper trail would be left so that it can be confirmed that the vote was not rigged. You must have noticed when you cast your vote that for a few seconds you could see the name of the party you voted for.
Either because of the cost or the time it would take, the Election Commission was only willing to check the EVM votes through the paper trail in 1% of the booths in a constituency on a random basis. On the direction of the Supreme Court the Election Commission decided to raise the number of EVMs in each Constituency which would be verified to 5%. The Supreme Court rejected a demand by the combined Opposition for 100% paper verification of the button punched in the EVM machine. Under the verification process in 5% of the booths, the VVPAT slips will be tallied with the EVM results.
Since this will be done in the presence of observers of the various candidates there is little scope for manipulation. However, as the opposition points out, the 5% samples proves nothing if the other 95% are rigged.
There are also other aspects of the recently concluded poll which have created doubts on the integrity of the Election Commission. While the Election Commission issued a gag order on campaigning against those who made objectionable remarks such as Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Pragya Singh Thakur and Rahul Gandhi, the perception is that the Election Commission was biased in favour of BJP candidates. It is also been revealed that one of three Election Commissioners, Ashok Lavasa, objected to the clean chit given to rabid BJP leaders. The EC has refused to reveal the objections raised by the dissident commissioner even though he asked for an explanation. It seems to be an action replay of what happened in the Supreme Court.
There have also been reports that after the polling EVM machines have been hijacked and taken to residences instead of strong rooms. This is a modern version of booth capturing. Videos of movement and tampering of EVMs went viral on social networks over the past week. Even former President Pranab Mukherjee expressed his concern. To quote him “I am concerned over reports of alleged tampering of voters’ verdict. The safety and security of EVMs, which are in the custody of the ECI, is the responsibility of the Commission. There can be no room for speculations that challenge the very basis of our democracy. People’s mandate is sacrosanct and has to be above any iota of reasonable doubt. A firm believer in our institutions, it is my considered opinion that it is the ‘workmen’ who decide how the institutional ‘tools’ perform. The onus of ensuring institutional integrity in this case lies with the Election Commission of India (ECI). They must do so and put all speculations to rest.” Not surprisingly, present President K Kovind, who has sworn to protect the Constitution, has remained silent.
One side effect of the verification process is that the results are likely to be delayed. In the past, following the introduction of EVMs, the results used to be announced within two to three hours. This is because each EVM provides the total votes won by each party and candidate, and all that the electoral officers had to do was count the total of all the EVMs for the constituency. Now, because of the paper trail the results of the Lok Sabha and Assembly seats, including Panjim, which went to the poll, will not be confirmed until 5 pm.
Pressure on government agencies
And a few stray thoughts on the Modi government destroying the independence of Central enforcement agencies like the CBI, the NIA and the Enforcement Directorate.
The biggest crime committed by the Modi government is to withdraw all the cases filed by the SIT of Maharashtra headed by the 26/11/2008, martyr Hemant Karkare. A number of terrorist acts were committed during the ‘90s and the first decade of the new century by Hindu militant groups. This included a bomb blast in Muslim dominated Malegaon and the Samjautha Express bombing, which is only the train link between India and Pakistan. The police routinely arrested Muslim youth for many of these crimes and they were kept in custody and tortured for over a decade before they were acquitted by the courts. In the course of the investigation Hemant Karkare who was the head of the SIT discovered that the terrorist attacks were wrongly attributed to the Muslim youth and that a Hindu terrorist group was acting. This included a former army intelligence officer Lt. Col. Prasad Shrikant Purohit and many others who were the part of the Abhinav Bharat which committed many terrorist acts which were blamed on Muslims.
Recently, in the course of the investigation into the Gauri Lankesh case the Bengaluru police revealed that Pragya Ram, Purohit and the Hindu terror group were closely associated with the Sanatan Sanstha.
The CBI and the NIA have been withdrawing charges against BJP leaders and party workers and framing cases against Congress and other party leaders. While the central investigative agencies withdrew charges against Purohit and Pragya, not to mention the charges against Amit Shah of arranging ‘fake encounters’, they fight against the Gandhi family. The Gandhi family, including Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka, were accused of misusing the National Herald Trust which was converted into the young India trust. The charges were dismissed after the Gandhis’ approached the SC.
Similarly charges were framed by the CBI and ED against former Finance Minister PC Chidambaram, his son Kartik and even his wife. Interestingly, charges of having wealth disproportionate to known source of income were withdrawn against Mayawati in the hope that she will support the BJP if it did not get a clear majority to form the government again. The worst example of the misuse of the CBI and ED are the charges against industrialists who have stolen crores of rupees from banks.
Unlike Sahara boss Subroto Mukerjee, both Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi were allowed to escape even though they robbed banks of over
10,000 crore. No action was taken against Anil Ambani, whose Telecom company owes banks more than40,000 crore. Huge loans have been given to the Adani group without any security. The chor close to the BJP get away while those opposed to it are harassed with raids by the Income Tax Department. Among the victims was Priyanka Gandhi’s husband, Robert Vadra.
JUDICIARY UNDER FIRE
And a few stray thoughts on destroying the autonomy of the judiciary.
The agreement was that the chief justices of the state courts and the judges of the Supreme Court would be selected by a committee comprising the Chief Justice of the SC, the PM, the leader of the Opposition and the law minister. But the Law Ministry has been refusing to accept the recommendation of the Supreme Court. The conspiracy of the Modi government has been to pack the Supreme Court with judges who were supporters of the BJP.
Former Chief Justice Deepak Misra was close to PM. He is alleged to have been partisan in forming benches to hear critical issues. It is necessary to understand that all judges are not the same and they have their individual prejudices. There are judges who support a particular political party. The party in power at the Centre and the State tries to get favourable candidates appointed as judges. It is also necessary to explain the practice of bench hunting or fixing. There are judges who may be very committed to ecology. So builders and land sharks will keep adjourning matters till the bench changes and they get a builder-friendly bench. Similarly in a larger sense there may be judges who are very religious and judges who do not bother about religion.
It was an irreverent bench of the Supreme Court which lifted the ban on women between 15 and 50 entering the Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala in Kerala. (The argument of the temple authorities was that the deity was a bachelor and therefore any women in the menstruating stage are barred from entering the temple.)
In the case of the Ram temple at Ayodhya the government was keen that the Supreme Court should decide the matter before the election. This is because if the SC had given a verdict in favour of the Ram Mandir it would have increased support for the BJP among the Hindus. Unfortunately for the BJP, a new Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had taken over and he insisted that the matter should be settled by compromise and refused to oblige the BJP with an order in its favour.
There are many instances where the BJP tried to influence the judiciary both at the Center and the States. A prominent example is the Rafale case in which Modi was charged with accepting a bribe and making Anil Ambani’s Reliance the partner for maintenance of the fighter air force bought by the airforce even though he had no experience. Originally the partner of the French manufacture was HAL, an Indian Public Sector company, which has been manufacturing aircraft for the defense forces for more than three decades. The Supreme Court reserved the order on the charge that the Rafale aircraft purchase was a big scam. Our own Manohar Parrikar who was the defense minister was not consulted by Modi when he struck a direct deal with then French President Hollande. This despite objections from officials of the Defense Department.
And a few stray thoughts on attempts to undermine the autonomy of the Reserve Bank of India through attacks by the government.
The RBI not only controls the banks in all areas, including public sector banks, private sector banks and co-operative banks, it fixes the interest rates at which banks can lend and borrow. The RBI fixes a ‘prime rate’ which is the basis for the interest rates charged by other banks. The prime rate is decided on the level of inflation. If the prices have increased too much the RBI increases the prime rate, so as to force prices down.
The logic is that the more than money in the hands of people, the more they will spend. Increase in demand pushes up prices. To give an example, if the RBI increases the interest rate, consumers will not buy as many cars and two wheelers as the price of this product will go up. Lower rates increase business and purchases as people become less cautious. In such cases GDP goes up but so does inflation. Hence, the RBI’s role is to constantly maintain the fine balance between growth and inflation.
It is because of an increased interest rate and increased third party insurance rates that the sale of two wheelers has drop by 20% in the last three months. The government wanted the RBI government to reduce interest rates so that more industries will come up and more jobs will be created.
The Modi government sacked the highly respected Raghuram Rajan because he would not listen to Modi. Unfortunately for them, the successor, Urjit Patel, proved to be even tougher. Patel was the person who exposed the Nirav Modi schemes. During his tenure many things came to light that led to the sacking of the MDs of several banks including the chairperson of ICICI bank, Chanda Kochhar. Patel also put severe cubs on banks which had lent money without security. Banks affected included Mapusa Urban Bank and the Margao Urban Bank. Both of them have been banned from giving loans or taking deposit. The worst affected are the account holders who can withdraw only
50,000 even they have5 crore in the bank.
EDUCATION DOWN THE DRAIN
And a last stray thought on the fall in standards in education during the Modi era.
The quality of education particularly in science and math’s has declined drastically as dramatized when we analyse the SSC exam results. Most of the students who failed, failed because of maths and science. Not surprising with the PM himself being ignorant of basic science. Talking of the Balakot airstrike at a public meeting, Prime Minister Modi claimed that the airforce was reluctant to carry out the strike on the schedule day because of bad weather. They pointed out that there was heavy rain and thick clouds. Modi proudly told them that the heavy clouds would help hide the fighter aircraft from Pakistani guns and radar. This is absurd as in the modern day the movement of planes is tracked by radar which works independent of cloud cover.
This comment of Modi sparked many jokes. It has been suggested the mission to the moon should be done on a full moon day because there may be more space to land. And that Modi can even launch a spaceship to the sun at night when it won’t be hot.