After it lost a significant election today in Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) headed by Arvind Kejriwal blamed rigged voting machines, describing their alleged manipulation as "a bitter truth" being used to "dictate democracy."
- AAP lost the significant Delhi election by placing second
- Party blames rigged voting machines for their loss; Alka Lamba disagrees
- Centre had sanctioned 3,000 crores to poll panel to upgrade machines
One AAP leader, however, did not subscribe to that premise. Alka Lamba, a legislator, said that "EVMs (Electronic Voting Machines) are not a problem in my area. We will support those elected by the people," she said, adding, "I know what the ground reality was and where we did faults (sic), I take complete onus."
Three Aam Aadmi candidates from her constituency - the famous old city area of Chandni Chowk - were defeated today in the election for local municipal corporations. Ms Lamba, 41, was removed last year as an official spokesperson for her party.
As counting began in the capital today, and leads showed Mr Kejriwal's party placing third (it finished as runner up to the BJP), Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia visited his boss' residence. Hours later, he emerged to say that AAP maintains that voting machines were used to ensure his party's defeat. "We may be laughed at," he said, "but we cannot quit our campaign against this bitter truth." Senior minister Kapil Mishra was far more temperate. While problems with machines should be examined, he said, "Yes, we have to reconnect with the people and understand reasons for this defeat."
The allegations of gamed voting machines were levelled first by Mr Kejriwal after he was not able to win Punjab last month despite a lengthy campaign in the state that was centred on his personal brand.
Most exit polls predicted that AAP would either win Punjab or place a strong second. In fact, the Congress won easily. Even AAP's detractors have acknowledged that for a novice -AAP was founded in 2012 - it is an admirable feat to have emerged as the main opposition party in a state beyond Delhi. But Mr Kejriwal remains convinced that he was robbed of Punjab and has accused the autonomous and powerful Election Commission of enabling BJP victories in different states.
Other opposition parties including the Congress formed a separate bloc to make the same allegation, though the Congress has found it hard to explain how it can allege machine-tampering only in states that it lost, and accepting its victory in Punjab as legit.
The Commission has repeatedly said that its machines cannot be manipulated and says that next month, it will hold a 10-day hackathon to prove its point. Mr Kejriwal, an IIT graduate, has said if he is given 24 hours with one of the machines, he will be able to demonstrate its defects.
Last week, the centre sanctioned nearly 3,000 crores to allow the Election Commission to buy upgraded machines that provide a paper receipt for each vote that is cast. VVPATS -Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails - print out a slip of paper that is visible to the voter for a few seconds and confirms the candidate selected before the receipt falls into a sealed box. The next general election in 2019 will be conducted entirely with this new technology.