It is somewhat of a pity that the Supreme Court knocked down the combined Opposition plea to increase the random voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) to 50 per cent of all EVMs per constituency. The crux of the matter is that the EVMs have become suspect in the eyes of the Opposition who have got into a bit of a kerfuffle over the machines that have been counting votes in Indian elections for two decades now. The concept of a free and fair poll can be enhanced if all the parties contesting the elections are convinced of EVM efficacy. The Opposition may have taken their fear of the EVM and VVPAT to levels of paranoia in 2019. Even so, fair play can be served best if all their objections are studied and a formula in terms of minimum numbers in verification is found that would satisfy most people.
The EVMs have come to stay. A way forward must be found now to ensure that they function at 100 per cent efficiency on polling days. India has a vast bank of hardware and software engineers who can ensure this provided the ECI brings them into the picture. Going back to paper ballots would be unscientific in the modern era when we would be risking lives if about 900 million votes are to be counted and results declared in a reasonable timeframe. Glaring examples of the difficulties in manual counting were there in the recent Indonesian election as well as in the United States, an exemplary democracy, where doubts still linger over the final result of the 2000 presidential election featuring George W Bush and Al Gore. In the standalone EVM run on a basic Japanese chip we have evolved a system that withstands hacking. To rule out any mischievous manipulation in this is a task any dedicated Election Commission can perform. An open mind on testing the system and making it work better should be the way forward.