Opinions

Uttar Pradesh is having a government of questionable validity: need for impartial probe

Selecting small samples to estimate the true value or quality or behavior of a large group has been a widely accepted practice for many years. Over the years, sampling techniques have been improved and made scientific to ensure reliable estimates of true values and confidence limits beyond which the true value is unlikely to lie. Consequently, results of sample surveys have been repeatedly made use of with confidence for planning economic, social and political developments. But, ironically, the results of five scientific sample surveys (exit polls) on UP election results were dismissed without even investigating their reliability. This blind wholesale rejection of five scientific sample surveys/exit polls is unique and deserves to be condemned outright.

The following statement gives the results of five scientific exit polls and the EVM counts for BJP and its supporters (“BJP+”) in UP elections.

Pollster

No. of seats for “BJP+” and confidence limits within bracket

TIMES NOW VMR

200 (190-210)

India News-MRC

185 (175-195)*

ABP-CSDS

170 (164-176)

India TV-C Voter

161 (155-167)

News 24 Chanakya

285 (273- 297)*

Average

200 (190-210)*

EVM counts

325

*Confidence limits calculated by these pollsters were not shown in the newspaper reports. Limits given above are rough but fairly reliable calculations comparable to the confidence limits given by the other pollsters.

The first four scientific exit polls predicted a hung assembly. The last one predicted a majority for BJP. But, most important, the EVM counts showed many more seats for “BJP+” than the upper confidence limits (i.e., the upper limit for number of seats) given by all the five exit polls. The average result for the five exit polls (which gives a clearer picture) shows that the EVM count of 325 seats gave “BJP+” 55% more than the 210 seats which is the upper limit for number of seats. This very large difference shows beyond any doubt that EVM counts were wrong.

Chance for the true number of seats received by “BJP+” being even a little more than the upper limit for number of seats is less than 5% for any one of these exit polls (or even less than 1% depending upon the degree of confidence selected by the pollsters for calculating the limits). Even for the stray exit poll result which was most favourable to “BJP+”, the chance for “BJP+” getting even a little more than 297 seats is less than 5% (or 1%). Chance for “BJP+” getting even a little more seats than the upper limit for number of seats for all five exit polls is close to zero (according to the law of probability). Considering the more reliable average result, chance for “BJP+” getting 55% more seats than the upper limit of 210 seats is close to zero. In other words, the probability that the EVM counts for UP elections were wrong is close to 100%.

Instead of condemning outright the results of all five scientific exit polls, Election Commission (EC) ought to have respected their scientific basis. If any confirmation was needed, EC could have sought the expert opinion of Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata (the pioneers in developing sampling techniques) or any other institutions or professors of statistics with experience in sampling techniques. But, it seems that EC did not do this. Incredibly, EC did not give any justifications for rejecting scientific results! Obviously, EC did not want to find out the truth and has failed in its constitutional responsibility. This lack of interest in finding out the truth also questions the impartiality of EC.

Impartiality is further questionable because EC ignored the following information which clearly showed that manipulation of electronic gadgets is a clear possibility and repeatedly claimed parrot-like that EVMs cannot be tampered with:

1.      Cyber crimes have been increasing with more and more misguided clever people resorting to hacking, developing virus, rigging etc.

2.      An article titled “Are EVMs really tamper proof” by Debanish Achom in Deccan Chronicle states the following:

(a)    “the BBC reported that after connecting a home-made device to an EVM, University of Michigan researchers were able to change results by sending text messages from a mobile phone.”

(b)   “Hari Krishna Prasad Vemuru, managing director of Hyderabad-based Netindia Pvt Ltd, a technology solutions firm, has showed on local TV how an EVM could be rigged.” It is possible that an ardent BJP supporter had watched this and (without knowledge of EC & BJP) succeeded in hacking and twisting the counting instructions for EVMs used in UP elections.

(c)    Mr. Vemuru also claimed that “The EVM chip could be replaced with a look-alike and instructed to silently steal a percentage of votes in favour of a chosen candidate.” Any clever and dishonest staff of EC, the sole custodian of EVMs, could do this if he/she wanted to. It is pertinent that no government office is likely to be corruption-free.

3. “Synthetic (finger) prints can unlock smart phones 65% of the time.” (The Times of India, 16-04-17).

4.      AAP has demonstrated in the Delhi Assembly how to tamper an EVM.   

5.      “A new report by McAfee reveals that 176 cyber–threats were detected every minute (i.e., almost three every second) and 88 per cent ransomeware growth and 99 per cent mobile malware growth had been detected by the end of 2016.” (DeccanChronicle, 12.04.17).

Did EC have a fool proof system to watch out for cyber-threats every second 24/7 and overcome all such threats? If not, cyber criminals could have manipulated EVM counting for UP elections.

It is not clear whether EC had succeeded in ensuring that EVMs used in UP elections could withstand all types of manipulations at any time (throughout the election), which can satisfy all types of experts. Even if it had succeeded 100% (which is doubtful), any clever and dishonest staff of EC, the sole custodian of EVMs, could have manipulated if he/she wanted to. It is pertinent that there is no dearth of bribe-givers and takers in the country.

All these show that manipulation of electronic gadgets is a clear possibility. This is supported by government’s admission to Supreme Court (SC), in connection with Aadhaar leaks, that no technology is 100% perfect. All these ridicule EC’s claim that EVMs cannot be tampered with. EC’s repeated refusals to investigate whether EVMs used in UP elections were manipulated show that EC may not be impartial.

It is pertinent that the possibility of such manipulation is not only indirectly accepted by EC but also made use of by it (as repeatedly illustrated below). EC promised to introduce a paper trail (VVPAT) for EVMs in 2019 which will enable it to check whether any electronic manipulation has occurred. If EVMs used in UP elections could not be manipulated, EC could not have justified this change. Ironically, despite this indirect self-admission of possibility of manipulation, EC did not check and report whether this has happened in UP elections even when it gave highly questionable results. Instead, EC keeps on saying parrot-like that EVMs are tamper-proof. This double thinking does not befit an authority like EC.

Moreover, it seems that EC is talking about its plans for 2019 (which is a long way off) mainly to divert attention from the highly questionable EVM counts of UP elections which is the most important issue at hand.

EC wrote to the Law Minister that deploying VVPAT machines is needed to ensure that “integrity of the voting is preserved and voter’s confidence in the process is strengthenedandsought sanction of Rs. 3,174 crores for procurement of new machines (The Times of India, 17.04.17). If EVMs used in UP elections had preserved integrity of voting, EC could not have justified this huge demand for funds. Is this not another indirect admission that EVMs used in UP elections were not tamper-proof?

EC says that these new machines are also equipped with a self diagnostic system for authentication of genuineness of the machines. Does it not imply that genuineness of the old EVMs used in UP elections could not be authenticated? Does this not also imply that EC is making use of this defect in the EVMs used in UP elections to justify spending huge amounts on new machines?

“EC is set to buy next generation EVMs that become “inoperable the moment attempts are made to tinker with it” for use in 2019. (The Times of India, 03.04.17). This unusually early talk about the future is another attempt to divert attention from the most important question at hand whether the EVMs used in UP elections were tampered with.

“The integrity of EVMs to be used in the poll will be demonstrated to the complete satisfaction of all stakeholders” by a team of EC (The Times of India, 02.04.17). This is another instance of EC talking aboutthe future in order to divert attention from the wrong EVM counts for UP elections.

EC threw a challenge to political parties, scientists and technical experts to prove that EVMs could be tampered with now. (The Times of India, 13.04.17). This is yet another example of diverting attention from the wrong EVM counts for UP elections. Moreover, this belated challenge, many weeks after casting of doubts, raises the important question whether EC has now made the EVMs used in UP, which were in its custody, “inoperable“ the moment attempts are made to tinker with it - a quality of the next generation of EVMs. If so, where are the old EVMs without this quality, which were used in UP elections? Both these question whether EC has been dishonest.

In 2013, SC directed EC to introduce VVPAT in a phased manner. Chidambaram referred to the details of this verdict and said that “a team of experts had filed a comprehensive report saying that the software as well as hardware used in EVMs are vulnerable and prone to tampering”. He said even EC had admitted that the machine was not foolproof and agreed to introduce paper trail” (The Times of India, 03.04.17). Because these EVMs without paper trail were used in UP elections (except for few seats), EC was aware that they were not foolproof. Despite this awareness, EC repeatedly claimed that the EVMs could not be tampered with. This double speak questions the integrity and impartiality of EC.

All these indicate lack of sincerity and commitment of EC to ensure accuracy in election results. This is confirmed by EC’s refusal to check accuracy of EVM counts in UP elections despite the probability that the EVM counts for UP elections were wrong is close to 100% (see above) and awareness of EC about possibility of manipulation of EVMs (preceding para). This also questions the impartiality of EC.

Mayawathi, Kejriwal and Yechury have also questioned this. May be there are more people with doubts (including the five pollsters) who are keeping quiet, possibly because of fear of being labeled as anti-nationals. EC is not fulfilling its duty to clear their doubts about the most important question of accuracy of UP counts but diverting attention from it by repeatedly telling about its future plans.

Lack of accuracy persists even four years after SC’s orders though more accurate EVMs could be deployed on a large scale. What is worse and damaging is that EC is planning to use these “more accurate” EVMs only in 2019, though these machines will be manufactured by Bharat Electronics and Electronics Corporation of India (The Times of India, 02.04.17). Why this postponement instead of ensuring accurate elections in some states for which it is due during the next two year period? Doubts about impartiality of EC raises the question whether it will close its eyes to manipulations in these elections to help some parties, with the general elections in 2019 in mind.

The baffling actions (or inaction by EC) do not stop with these. New EVMs “technically allow a manual counting of votes”. Even before getting complaints about the inaccuracy of the published results, a responsible EC should have compared the results from manual counting with the EVM counts for the 30 seats in UP for which new EVMs were used to check accuracy. If the voting pattern shown by EVM counts differed from those from manual counting for the 30 seats, the possibility of manipulation is confirmed. But EC did not carry out these checks, even after receiving complaints. Why? This also questions the impartiality of EC.

EC has to provide convincing answers for all the questions raised earlier. 

“Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has said that he finds two of the three election commissioners are biased because of what he claims to be the proximity of one of them to PM Narendra Modi and of the other to MP chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan” (The Times of India, 19.04.17). This allegation needs to be investigated because doubts about the impartiality of EC have been raised a number of times in the earlier paragraphs. Such an investigation should also cover various points raised earlier. These should not be investigated by CBI which has been labeled as a caged parrot of the government by SC. Another reason for CBI’s lack of credibility is that “two former directors of CBI are placed in the process of facing trial for corruption, money laundering, and scuttling serious Supreme Court-mandated probes” (Deccan Chronicle, 28.04.17).

EC claims that “an analysis of results retrieved from VVPATs used across all the 40 constituencies in Goa and 33 seats in Punjab shows little variation with results put out by EVMs without paper trail”(The Times of India, 18.4.17).

Most important, it is surprising that EC did not provide the results retrieved from VVPATs used in the other states including UP for which it was essential because EVM counts were highly questionable there. EC must have made this analysis for these states also. If so, why did EC withhold the results? If it did not analyze, why?

Withholding of these results also questions the impartiality of EC. These should be published immediately. If EC now shows results for these seats in UP (for which VVPAT trail is available) which prove that these did not differ from EVM counts, it will not have credibility unless EC allows checking by independent experts.

Possibly, EC wanted to hide these results because these proved that EVM counts for UP were wrong for most of these seats and by implication for most seats of UP, and confirmed the voting pattern shown by the scientific exit polls.

The above analysis clearly shows that (1) the probability that the EVM counts for UP elections were wrong is close to 100% and constitution of the present UP government based on these wrong counts has no validity, (2) EC has been repeatedly issuing statements about ensuring correct counting of votes in future to divert attention from the invalid results of UP elections, (3) Impartiality of EC needs to be investigated because of the number of doubts mentioned in earlier paragraphs and (4) The situation demands a thorough investigation by an independent agency (not CBI) to clear all doubts and recommend remedial actions.

Only such an investigation can ensure Satyameva Jayate ("Truth alone triumphs),our highly respected motto.

To reiterate, it isridiculous to mistrust the results of not one but five scientific exit polls and trust the accuracy of EVMs which can be manipulated according to many experts and which contradicts government’s view that no technology is 100% perfect. It is shocking that (1) diverting attention away from the scientific exit polls and accepting the wrong EVM counts for Uttar Pradesh has resulted in UP having a government which has no validity and (2) this serious issue is not being questioned even by constitutional experts and authorities.

In order to remove the shocking situation of having a government which has no validity and to fulfill its responsibility under the Constitution, EC has to (1) immediately declare the highly questionable EVM counts as invalid because it gave “BJP+” 55% more seats than the upper limit for a number of seats according to the average results of the five scientific exit polls and (2) order a recount of EVMs after removing the criminal manipulations, under scrutiny by experts and stakeholders. If this is not possible, EC has to order a re-poll within a short period, after recommending President’s rule. Otherwise, UP will continue to have an invalid government – a blot on our Constitution.

An anonymous citizen who cares for and respects the motto Satyameva Jayate and fears the fringe elements which harass or even kill on any pretext.

An appeal to Hon’be judges of Supreme Court

Kindly consider whether the shocking/unconstitutional situations described in this article are sufficient grounds for taking up suo motu cases for :

(1)   Dismissing the present UP government which has no validity under the Constitution, being based on highly questionable EVM counts. It is scandalous if a cyber criminal will be allowed to make a mockery of the Constitution.

(2)    Setting up a Special Investigation Team to investigate whether Election Commission failed to be impartial about the UP election results.

For the attention of journalists

At a recent panel discussion in Delhi Habitat Centre, all participants expressed the view that the media scene in India was catastrophic because of the fear among journalists to criticize the present Government. If the journalists are so afraid, they will become irrelevant. The only solution they suggested was that journalists should stand up against the undesirable policies and actions of Governments. This need was emphasized by the President of India also recently. He said that the press will be failing in its duty if it does not ask questions to those in power (The Times of India, 26.05.17).

In the present context, it is the duty of every journalist to question the EC which failed in its responsibilities by ignoring the results of five scientific exit polls without giving any justification and using the highly questionable EVM counts to support the constitution of an invalid government in UP, resulting in a shocking situation and a blot on the Constitution of India.

To help remove the climate of fear, retired journalists with lots of experience should publish booklets which explain the reasons for journalists fearing to express their views freely and the negative role played by their non-professional masters. Publishing booklets is necessary because newspapers and journals may not publish such views due to fear.

However, the severity of criticism of both the Central and the State Government by brave journalists like Vinu John and Sindhu Sooryakumar on TV and many others in the newspapers in Kerala gives hope that all is not lost. Moreover, these activities demonstrate that as professionals doing their job of exposing governments, journalists need not fear because they will get the full support of the entire profession and general public, unlike a common man.

(Received from Sivarama Bharathi -- srbharathi18@yahoo.in)

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