Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati does not think she lost in Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, even though the numbers suggest her party will struggle to get more than 20 seats. Instead, the former chief minister of the state held a press conference on Saturday, as votes were still being tallied, at which she claimed that the Electronic Voting Machines had been tampered with by the Bharatiya Janata Party.
“Either the EVMs did not accept votes other than BJP, or the votes of other parties have gone to BJP in the EVMs,” Mayawati said at the press conference. Her Bahujan Samaj Party, based on trends as of 4.30 pm, was on course to win just 20 seats in the 404-strong Assembly. Mayawati claimed the BJP, which is in power in Delhi and is on course to win more than 300 seats in Utar Pradesh, ensured that all votes went to them.
Mayawati demanded a re-election, and insisted that the EVMs need to be sealed and examined by observers from a foreign country because otherwise the ruling BJP will “manage local experts.”
The Bahujan Samaj Party chief’s comments are not entirely unusual for politicians who have lost elections in India. Pattali Makal Katchi chief Anbumani Ramadoss, for example, demanded that India go back to the paper ballot system after his party failed to win a single seat in Tamil Nadu elections in 2016. The BJP’s own Subramanian Swamy is leading a campaign to get rid of EVMs.
The Election Commission has said on several occasions that EVMs are secure and tamper-proof.
Moreover, Mayawati’s explanation runs into the logical problem of her allegations being made at the same time that the BJP and its ally in Punjab, the Shiromani Akali Dal, have been routed in state elections. The incumbent Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance in Punjab is on course to win just 18 seats in a 117-strong house, with the Congress set to form the government with 77 seats. To this Mayawati suggested that “the BJP did not dare do this in Punjab”, although that explanation seems to hold little water.
Another way to examine whether Mayawati is only bringing up the question as a result of her loss is to check on whether there has been a dramatic difference with previous elections.
(The chart includes Lok Sabha elections in 2014 for the most recent comparison).
The Bahujan Samaj Party’s seat-share has indeed fallen drastically, from more than 200 in 2007 to around 20 this time. But the Election Commission’s data on the Bahujan Samaj Party’s vote share is about consistent with her elections over the past two decades. Mayawati’s party in fact won more votes this year, by percentage, than it did in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Since 1996 however, it has hovered in the band between 18% and 30%.
Mayawati did attempt to explain this for 2014, saying her party workers had brought it up even then, but she did not speak about it since she was worried about damaging Indian democracy.
News reports also pointed out how Mayawati had been asked about tampered EVMs at a press conference on March 6, which she rebuffed, even calling the person who asked the question a “BJP agent”. Asked about it on Saturday, Mayawati said she “was not aware that the journalist was aware of the manipulations in the EVMs”.