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EVM row Highlights: AAP to say ‘sorry’ if can’t hack EC machine

Congress leader Tehseen Poonawalla to raise questions and show proof that EVMs could be ‘hacked’. Poonawalla was among the guests invited to the Delhi assembly to observe the AAP ‘demo’ on a dummy EVM.

delhi Updated: May 10, 2017 19:13 IST
Sweta Goswami
As Congress says doubts on integrity of EVMs should be erased by the election commission, Congress leader Tehseen Poonawal announced plan to hold a press meet where he will raise questions about the reliability of EVMs and ‘provide proofs’.
As Congress says doubts on integrity of EVMs should be erased by the election commission, Congress leader Tehseen Poonawal announced plan to hold a press meet where he will raise questions about the reliability of EVMs and ‘provide proofs’. (HT FILE )

A day after the Aam Aadmi Party performed a test on a dummy EVM in the Delhi assembly, Congress ‘sympathiser’ Tehseen Poonawalla questioned the reliability of EVMs and asked Election Commission to bring in experts to dispel doubts. His held a press conference at Delhi’s Constitution Club where he was accompanied by activist VV Rao .

On Tuesday, Delhi saw an action-packed special session in which Greater Kailash MLA Saurabh Bhardwaj claimed to display that the EVMs could be easily ‘hacked’. Following the demonstration, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said, “We can hack any EVM across Delhi in three days.” The Election Commission, however, junked these claims and said that any machine carried out of their premises ceases to be an EVM used for polling. Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, thereon, challenged the EC to provide them with a real EVM.

Earlier in the day, rebel AAP leader Kapil Mishra filed three complaints against Arvind Kejriwal and Satyendar Jain with the CBI. He also alleged that party leaders had made foreign trips out of public exchequer and illegal money. Mishra has gone on a hunger strike from today, till the party reveals details of these foreign trips by its leaders.

Here are the Highlights:

1.50pm: EC invites all parties on May 12 to redress EVM issue
In order to allay doubts raised by political parties over the allegation of rigged Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), the Election Commission has scheduled an all political parties meeting on May 12 where issues related to electoral reforms, besides non-tamperable EVMs, would be discussed.

1.40pm: ‘EVM-hacking’ show a diversionary tactic by AAP: Maken
“All doubts regarding EVMs can be put before the Election Commission on May 12, instead of wasting the precious time of the Assembly, convened at enormous cost to the exchequer,” said Delhi Congress president Ajay Maken. He said that Kejriwal has been rattled by the bribery charge levelled against him by sacked water minister Kapil Mishra and the Special Session seemed to have been convened to divert the attention of the people.

1.30pm: EVM demonstration was a complete drama: Shahnawaz Hussain
“That was not a demonstration, but only a drama. It was conducted to divert everyone’s attention from corruption allegations on Kejriwal. The AAP has misused the assembly by conducting such dramas. It is a stain on Indian democracy,” Hussain said.

1.20pm: EVM demo in Delhi Assembly a ‘joke’: Shazia Ilmi
“Whatever happened in the Assembly was a big joke. This was done only to divert everyone’s attention from the corruption charges,” BJP leader Shazia Ilmi said.

1.10pm: Kapil Mishra begins ‘Satyagraha’
“I am sitting on a ‘Satyagraha’ till I get a clarification on details of international travel expenses of some senior AAP leaders. It is not a dharna but a satyagraha. I would like to send out a message to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to put out the details of the foreign tours of his five AAP leaders-Satyendra Jain, Ashish Khetan, Raghav Chaddha, Sanjay Singh and Durgesh Pathak in public domain,” Mishra said. Read: Kapil Mishra begins ‘hunger strike’ at home, writes another open letter to Kejriwal

Former Delhi minister Kapil Mishra, with his wife Preeti, as he began ‘stayagraha’ at his house in Civil Lines. (Sonu Mehta /HT Photo)

12.48pm: Tampering of EVMs ‘biggest fraud’: Somnath Bharti
“After such a expose and such a big fraud, the political parties should introspect on the matter. The tampering of EVMs is the biggest fraud in the history of the democracy. If such a thing has happened now, then it can happen in future too. I think it is time for the Election Commission to introspect. I would like to request to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to become serious as this is not a joke; our democracy is in danger,” AAP leader Somnath Bharti said.

12.35 pm:VV Rao on EVMs: “Appreciate what AAP did yesterday. For the first time EVM tampering was discussed in an Assembly House.” Read: Highlights of AAP experiment on dummy machine

12.29pm:VV Rao on EVMs: “People sitting in Election Commission know nothing about technology. They are mere administrators.”

12.25pm:Poonawalla’s EVM charge: “Calling political parties for closed door discussion won’t help. Call experts.”

12.20pm: VV Rao on EVMs: “Even VVPATs are not verifiable. It still fails to ensure protection of votes cast by citizens.”
“In Bhind, no expert was sent to conduct the enquiry. Innocent ECI officials were sent. There is no clarity on how the probe was done.”

12.15pm:VV Rao on EVMs: “Chips used in our EVMs come from Japan, the technology is from US, then why can’t the ECI bring experts from abroad to verify.”
“In 2013, SC made it mandatory to use EVMs only through VVPATs. ECI is blatantly violating this. It is contempt of court.” Back in 2009: SC asks petitioner to approach EC on EVMs issue

12.10pm: VV Rao on EVMs: “More than 500 complaints on EVM tampering lying with the Election Commission, over 100 petitions lying in courts.”

12.05pm: Poonawalla’s EVM charge: “A day before local elections in Pune, ECI issued a notice saying the code for an EVM was wrong without even sealing or verifying the machine.”
* “Whenever we asked ECI questions, it always directed us to the manufacturers who in turn threatened to sue VV Rao.”

12pm: Poonawalla’s EVM charge: “I first realised about EVM tampering when an MP in Mumbai had told me the exact number the party was winning which turned out to be true.”
* “The first proof: Votes did not tally in 41 wards in Pune.”

11.55am: The debate is not whether EVMs can be hacked, it’s about how do we make it fool proof in future: Poonawalla

11.50am: EC trying to hide the vulnerability of EVMs: Saurabh Bharadwaj
“We are waiting for invitation from Election Commission. Tomorrow, if the election commission invites us, we will go and hack their machines else apologize to people,” said AAP leader Saurabh Bharadwaj in a television channel interview. The election commission is trying the hide the vulnerability of EVMs by saying it is kept in a secured environment. But the hacking happens after the EVM reaches polling booth, he said.

11.45am: “Not a supporter of Arvind Kejriwal. Collaborated with AAP because ECI refused to hear me out,” Poonawalla tells HT.

11.40am: VV Rao to accompany Tehseen Poonawalla: VV Rao is an election watch activist and the main petitioner in the PIL filed in the Supreme Court on EVMs. He was also present in the assembly when the AAP presented its ‘demo’. The PIL filed by VV Rao had questioned the functioning of EVMs and sought a direction to the EC to stop using them till the machines are made tamper-proof.

11.35am: Election Commission speaks up, dismisses hacking claims: Lashing out at the AAP, which used a prototype of an EVM to show how a machine can be manipulated, the poll panel said the “so-called demonstration of tampering of ‘look-alike’ EVM cannot be exploited to influence intelligent citizens and electorate to assail or vilify the EVMs used by the commission”. Read: EC official dares AAP to do it in hackathon

11.25am: “If there is any official communication from Election Commission on the EVM issue we are ready to respond to it, but it should not come from hearsay sources,” says AAP leader Saurabh Bharadwaj in an interview to a television channel. “Only then the debate can reach a logical conclusion,” he says.

11.15am:Doubts on integrity of electoral process should be erased, says Congress: “If even one person raises doubt about the fairness of the electoral process, there is an obligation on the Election Commission to redress that grievance,” says Congress leader Randeep Surjewala.

11.05am: Even as Congress ’sympathiser’ Tehseen Poonawalla promised to hold his own demonstration on EVMs today, the party’s Delhi chief Ajay Maken said that the AAP’s EVM show was a waste of public money. He said that while it was expected that a discussion will be held on corruption charges against Kejriwal and Jain, and problems such as dengue, chikungunya, water, and power shortage including metro fare hike, but only the issue of EVMs was allowed to be discussed. Read: AAP EVM demo a waste of public money, says Cong’s Maken

10.50am: “Even though it was a replica of the electronic voting machine and not an original one, I am 200% convinced even original EVMs could be rigged in the same manner. It gave me goose bumps,” says Manoj K Jha, leader of RJD who attended the demonstration. Read: Political ‘invitees’ say AAP’s ‘EVM-tampering’ was convincing

10.40am: Senior MPs and leaders, including TMC MP Sukhendu Sekhar Roy, Congress ‘sympathiser’ Tehseen Poonawalla, RJD’s Manoj Jha and CPM’s Nilotpal Basu, who attended the Assembly session yesterday, say the AAP’s charges on EVM ‘tampering’ looked convincing.

10.30pm: I am getting threat calls from international numbers. They are saying they will shoot me, says Kapil Mishra, who is sitting on hunger strike at his Civil Lines residence.

Here is all you need to know about the controversy:

The AAP has been raising the issue of allegedly faulty EVMs ever since it faced a string of electoral losses. The party, which had hoped to come to power in Punjab and Goa, performed far below its expectations. The party also lost Rajouri Garden bypoll in Delhi and the MCD elections that followed.

Party leaders have since voiced doubts over the reliability of the EVMs and claimed that the machines could have been rigged. Ahead of the MCD polls, the party had requested the Election Commission to defer the polls till machines with paper trails could be brought in. Their request was turned down by the poll panel.

Differences within the party over EVMs

After it’s loss in MCD elections, the party took the line of faulty EVMs which did not find favour with some of its own leaders. The party’s founder member Kumar Vishwas said that the party needed to introspect on its losses instead of blaming the EVMs. The issue snowballed as MLA Amanatullah Khan took on Kumar Vishwas calling him an RSS-BJP agent. Vishwas in turn took exception to his remarks and threatened to quit the party. The party’s Political Affairs Committee, thereon, decided to placate Vishwsas by making him Rajasthan incharge and putting Khan under suspension.

Demo two months in the making

A team comprising an IIT graduate, tech experts and MLA Saurabh Bhardwaj, who is himself a computer engineer, were working for the past two months to crack the ‘secret code’ through which, the AAP claims, an electronic voting machine (EVM) could be hacked.

The process took pace after the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) lost the Punjab elections in March but the team got “success” last week when they claimed to have “successfully” hacked a replica of an EVM.

Party sources, however, refused to reveal the source of the EVM and how they prepared the replica but challenged the Election Commission to give them voting machines so that they could show how to hack them.

Read: Two months of preparation, 25 dummy runs