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EVM: The Latest Game Changer in The TDP-BJP Turf War

In the first phase of polling, EVM glitches were reported across 400 booths and in several booths, polling continued till beyond midnight.

Are electronic voting machines (EVM) becoming the new instruments in the turf war between the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government and Chandrababu Naidu led Telugu Desam Party (TDP)? Political observers feel this is the case.

Out of the 91 seats that went for polling in the first phase on April 11, almost half, i.e 42 seats, fall in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. The recently-held assembly elections in Telangana proved Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) led by K Chandrasekhar Rao was unbeatable, hence all eyes turned to Andhra Pradesh.

K Chandrasekhar Rao and YS Jaganmohan Reddy Credits: Twitter/@Somsirsa

The ruling TDP in Andhra Pradesh is battling a serious anti-incumbency. Sensing the public pulse, the shrewd politician in Chandrababu Naidu woke up and started distancing himself from his partner in crime, the BJP.

Within no time, BJP members from his cabinet resigned. The no-confidence motion was piloted in the Lok Sabha against the Central government. However, with the numbers on the ruling side, the motion was defeated. Since then, Chandrababu Naidu became the steering personality mobilising secular opposition against the communal BJP.

The turf war between TDP and BJP took different shapes and finally came out in open during the elections. BJP, determined to unseat TDP from power, has started taking nuanced measures.

Initially, the BJP tried its best to broker a deal with Yuvajana Shramika Raithu Congress (YSRCP) led by Jaganmohan Reddy and Jana Sena led by Pawan Kalyan. The consultations went on for about a year. For this reason, though Jana Sena appeared to sail with the state’s Left, it refused to take part in any of the major agitations organised by the Left. Instead, Pawan Kalyan toured his choice of constituencies, carving out an independent image for himself and his party on the ground. In the end, BJP’s attempts to come to an agreement with YSRCP and Jana Sena fell flat.

After political brokerage failed, the BJP turned to tamper with the administration. Even before the election notification was issued, the election commission (EC) undertook an administrative overhaul which included the police department.

The tussle between the state government and EC over the role of intelligence director general (DG) reached a head when the EC, in a surprising move, transferred out chief secretary. LV Subramanyam, a co-accused in corruption cases against Jaganmohan Reddy took charge as the new chief secretary. This led to a huge uproar within political circles across the nation.

Finally, despite all odds, the TDP faced polling on April 11. The news developments related to EVMs gave a new twist to the BJP-TDP turf war. To keep temperatures high, Chandrababu Naidu sat on a dharna before the state election commission office on the evening of April 10 demanding a fair poll.

Chandrababu Naidu speaking on how the Election Commission failed to ensure free and impartial election at press conference at Praja Vedika in Undavalli, April 15 (Photo:Twitter/@JaiTDP)

The developments on the day of the polls proved his apprehensions. In some constituencies, EVMs were non-operational until noon. Lakhs of voters across the state were forced to stand in long queues in the hot summer sun.

The EC’s embarrassment on the very first day of polls raised questions about the efficacy of EVMS. The high voting percentage despite failure of EVMs in a considerably large number of assembly constituencies raised several questions. This compelled the TDP supremo to take his fight against the BJP and EC to the nation’s capital.

In an application submitted to the poll body on April 11, the TDP demanded re-polling in 618 booths across 45 constituencies. Reportedly, EVMs in around 400 polling booths experienced glitches and in five districts polling came to an ended at midnight, a new milestone in the Indian electoral  history.

Voters waiting for their turn at an Andhra Pradesh polling booth.

Additionally, the polling booths that continued polling until midnight are not the same booths that reported technical glitches. When the state chief electoral officer reported 80 percent polling in the state, it raised doubts over the functioning of EVMs.

Things don’t end there. A section of retired IAS officers have written to the chief minister raising objections over his comments on the new EC-appointed chief secretary LV Subramanyam.

Also Read: ‘Spare a Thought for Akhlaq’: An Open Letter to My Fellow First-time Voters

Apparently, this support for L Subramanyam is orchestrated by former chief secretary IYR Krishna Rao, who had released a book on the failed development model of Andhra Pradesh’s capital construction region. Connecting the dots, it appears that the BJP is using its influence among the IAS lobby to fight back CM Naidu.

Amid all this din and distraction, the questions about the efficacy of EVM are lost. It is important to address the issues pertaining to EVMs as we have only just embarked on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

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