Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Tuesday claimed to have hacked a replica of an electronic voting machine (EVM) which it said proved allegations that the system can be tampered with to favour a particular party.
The Election Commission dismissed the “so-called demonstration of tampering of look-alike EVM” and also announced a hacking challenge, the date for which will be announced after an all-party meeting on May 12.
Kejriwal says EVM manipulation helped the BJP win the massive mandate in Uttar Pradesh and also blamed the machines for the AAP’s party’s defeat in the recent by-polls and civic elections in Delhi, a charge challenged by some of his own party leaders.
AAP legislator Saurabh Bhardwaj conducted a mock poll with the EVM replica, casting two votes each to five different parties. He then typed what he claimed was a “secret code” into the EVM, besides casting another vote for the BJP. Then he cast 8 more votes for the AAP. In the final tally, all parties got two votes each while the BJP had 11.
“I was a computer science engineer for 10 years before becoming an MLA. EVMs can be easily hacked by small engineers. Before voting day, candidates are fooled into believing that the machines are fine,” said Bhardwaj.
“You just need to change the motherboard. All it takes is 90 seconds. For successful hacking, all we need is a hacker smarter than the software designer.”
Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said the party can hack in three hours all the 13,000 EVMs used during polls in Delhi.
Besides AAP, other opposition parties including the Congress had earlier raised doubts over EVMs’ vulnerability to manipulation.
Introduced in India in 1982 for a bypoll in Kerala, EVMs are now used for all elections in the country. The EC is also trying out EVM printed slips -- called voter-verified paper audit trail or VVPAT – to eliminate possibilities of manipulating results
In a statement, the poll panel said the AAP demonstration “cannot be exploited to influence intelligent citizens and electorate to assail or vilify the EVMs used by the commission in its electoral process”.
“Very simply put, any ‘look-alike’ machine is just a different gadget, which is manifestly designed and made to function in a ‘tampered’ manner and has no relevance, incidence or bearing on the commission’s EVMs,” it said.
The BJP said the “EVM hacking show” was an attempt to divert attention from the bribery allegations levelled by former minister Kapil Mishra against Kejriwal.
BJP legislator Vijendra Gupta was marshaled out of the assembly when he tried to raise the issue of alleged corruption in land deals involving Kejriwal and PWD minister Satyendra Jain.
Former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee said the EVM was tampered inside the assembly “probably to add credibility to the act”.
Besides, legislators enjoy immunity on freedom of speech and expression in Parliament and legislative assemblies, he added.
The AAP also invited representatives of the Trinamool Congress (TMC), Janata Dal (U), Samajwadi Party and CPI (M) to witness the “hacking”.