By Prarthana Mitra
To make it easier for voters to register complaints regarding poll code violations, the Election Commission (EC) of India has decided to launch a mobile application where you can upload photographic or video evidence of ballot tampering at your polling booth.
Poll code violations are a threat to democratic elections
CVigil, which was rolled out this Tuesday, intends to geo-tag each complaint so that necessary and expedient measures can be deployed, in case of legitimate violations of the Model Code of Conduct during elections.
The sub-committee that proposed the idea said the move comes in the wake of numerous tips misleading government surveillance teams in the recently concluded by-polls. The pilot version of the app was used sparsely during the Karnataka elections, and a dummy version has been released for everyone to help them acclimate to the app.
“It will be operational only where elections are announced,” the EC released a statement, further saying, “However, the beta version of the app will be made available for the public and election staff to download so that they can acquaint themselves with its features and also try sending dummy data.”
The poll panel also added that “the complainant’s phone number and identity” would be hidden to “encourage information against influential people without any risk of subsequent possible backlash”, according to PTI. Non-anonymous complaints will be followed up with an update informing the complainant about the actions that were taken based on his/her tip.
Tantamount to greater trouble
Notwithstanding the underside of placing such power in the hands of common people, where misinformation can spark violence and swing votes, the Android application will have its first proper run in the upcoming elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram. However, the app raises critical questions regarding cyber and national security as well as the veracity of anonymous complaints.
In the absence of proper monitoring, the app may lead to absolute chaos, corruption and complete failure of the electoral machinery. Furthermore, as we all know, complaints alone are not enough; they need to be backed up by prompt and proper investigation, legal enforcement, and commensurate action.
Addressing the problem from a different angle
The problem of election tampering in India is as old as the history of democratic elections, but the stakes have never been higher before. While the BJP-NDA alliance is fighting tooth and nail to retain their electoral majority, major opposition Congress and other regional parties are on the verge of forging a third front to assume power, even if it requires the unlikeliest of coalitions.
In the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections next year, a tool like CVigil can bring a change in the way elections are conducted in India with the help of collective vigilante responsibility. The need for it is exacerbated at a time when a number of parties have traded poll tampering allegations during the recent by-polls and Karnataka elections. The centre, therefore, is extremely keen on trying different measures to combat the rampant problem of poll rigging.
From this perspective, placing the power to right the wrongs in public hands may backfire, but not necessarily. If utilised responsibly, ethically and without political bias, it can help make the upcoming elections a fairer and more democratic exercise, upholding the real mandate of the public.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.