Once BJP's Go-To Ally In Crisis, Jagan Reddy Joins INDIA Cause In EVM Row

In the past five years, YSRCP, though not part of either NDA or UPA, extended critical support to the Narendra Modi government on key legislation

Jagan Mohan Reddy's party suffered a rout in Andhra Pradesh in these elections

New Delhi:

Amid the raging debate over Electronic Voting Machines (EVM), YSR Congress Party president Jagan Mohan Reddy has called for a move towards voting by paper ballots. The remark comes weeks after the YSRCP was routed in the Lok Sabha election in Andhra Pradesh and the Assembly polls held alongside.

"Just as justice should not only be served, but should also appear to have been served, so should democracy not only prevail but must appear to be prevalent undoubtedly."

"In electoral practices across the world in almost every advanced democracy, paper ballots are used, not EVMs. We too must move towards the same in upholding the true spirit of our democracy," Mr Reddy posted on X this morning.

The YSR Congress chief's remark is significant as it joins cause with leaders of the INDIA Opposition bloc, who have been flagging apprehensions that EVMs can be manipulated. The Election Commission has trashed such arguments and stressed that robust safeguards make EVMs the most reliable voting system.

In the past five years, the YSRCP, though not part of either NDA or UPA, extended critical support to the Narendra Modi government on key legislation. But in this election, the BJP allied with its arch-rival, N Chandrababu-led TDP, and the NDA bloc swept the polls in Andhra. The NDA alliance won 164 out of 175 seats in Assembly polls, reducing YSRCP score to just 11. Of the 25 Lok Sabha seats in the state, NDA won 21 and the YSRCP four. 

Against this backdrop, Jagan Reddy's post hints at a political realignment that may compound troubles for the ruling BJP in Parliament, especially now that it does not have a clear majority and needs its NDA partners to stay on in power. The YSRCP now has four MPs in Lok Sabha and 11 in Rajya Sabha.

In a media interaction, YSRCP leader V Vijayasai Reddy said his party may have lost power in Andhra Pradesh, but not its strength in the Upper House. "Please remember that the BJP, the central government needs our support to pass bills in Rajya Sabha. There should be no doubt. We are as strong as the TDP even though we have lost power in the state."

Mr Reddy, however, indicated that his party is open to extending issue-based support to the NDA government if the matter is in the interest of the country and Andhra Pradesh.

What Is The EVM Row

The debate over the reliability of EVMs has revived weeks after the Lok Sabha poll results, thanks to a remark by 'X' boss and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Responding to a post on poll regularities in Puerto Rico. Flagging manipulation risks in EVMs, Musk tweeted, "We should eliminate electronic voting machines. The risk of being hacked by humans or AI, while small, is still too high."

That remark opened the floodgates. Shortly after, BJP leader and former Union minister Rajeev Chandrashekar said Musk's remark is a "huge sweeping generalization statement that implies no one can build secure digital hardware". The BJP leader said that while the Tesla CEO's view may apply to other places, Indian EVMs are "custom designed, secure and isolated from any network or media" and "there is no way in". The minister also offered Musk a tutorial.

Elon Musk, however, double down. "Anything can be hacked," he said. Mr Chandrasekhar stuck to his guns and argued that while "anything is possible", EVMs continue to be a reliable voting method as compared to paper ballots.

Opposition leaders latched on to Musk's remarks and questioned the reliability of EVMs.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said EVMs in Indian "are a 'black box' and nobody is allowed to scrutinize them".

Akhilesh Yadav, Samajwadi Party chief and a Congress ally, shared Musk's post. "Technology is to remove problems, if they become a cause of problems, their use must be stopped. When risks of EVM tampering are being flagged in several elections across the world and well-known technology experts are flagging risks, the BJP must clear the air on why they are bent on using EVMs," he said, demanding that upcoming polls be conducted by ballot paper method.

The Election Commission maintains that the EVM voting method has robust technical and administrative safeguards in place.

Addressing the media after the general election resuls, Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar took a swipe at those questioning EVMs. "Why to accuse that poor fellow? Let it rest for a few days. Let EVM rest till the next election. Then it will come out, then its battery will be changed, then its papers will be changed. Then it will get abused again, but will deliver good results. It has been showing similar results since the last 20-22 elections, the government keeps changing," he said.