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The trust deficit is also due to the government of India’s insistence on knowing the voting pattern at every polling booth, for ‘better administration’. In 2015–16, it rejected a proposal by the ECI to mix votes recorded in 40 or 50 booths before counting.

This, coupled with political party workers telling voters that the ‘gormint’ would come to know who they voted for, adds a fear factor to the equation.

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The EVS is assembled by BEL, a public sector company that functions under the ministry of defence, with five full-time directors and two part-time ‘government directors’ nominated by the Union government. Why then does it also have seven additional independent directors nominated by the government, four of whom are associated with the BJP, asked Rajya Sabha MP Digvijaya Singh in Parliament this week.

The BEL website names Shyama Singh, an advocate from Gaya in Bihar, Shiv Nath Yadav, a retired professor of political science from Varanasi; Mansukhbhai Shamjibhai Khachariya, businessman and district BJP president from Rajkot and P.V. Parthasarathi, a dentist from Hyderabad among the ‘independent’ directors.

The disproportionate representation of the ruling party on the BEL board seems suspicious.

Following assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh late last year, a group of lawyers in the national capital launched a campaign against the EVM. They cited figures revealing a mismatch between the ECI’s own figures of votes counted and votes polled in several constituencies. Discrepancies in victory margins led them to allege that EVMs had been manipulated.

A group of Supreme Court lawyers says the 2024 general elections must be held with ballot papers. “That is what the law mandates; the ECI must count ballot papers and match [them] with the EVM count,” said advocates Bhanu Pratap Singh, Narendra Mishra and Mehmood Pracha.

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