EC rejects EVM hacking claims by ‘cyber expert’

The man, identified as Syed Shuja from Hyderabad, appeared at a news conference through Skype. He said he was based in the United States, where he got political asylum after fleeing India due to threats to his life.
EC rejects EVM hacking claims by ‘cyber expert’. (Photo by Kalpak Pathak / Hindustan Times)(Hindustan Times)
EC rejects EVM hacking claims by ‘cyber expert’. (Photo by Kalpak Pathak / Hindustan Times)(Hindustan Times)
Updated on Jan 21, 2019 11:41 PM IST
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A man claiming to be a cyber expert and a former employee of the Electronic Corporation of India Ltd on Monday made a series of unsubstantiated allegations about the vulnerability of electronic voting machines (EVMs) used in India, including in the 2014 general election.

The Election Commission of India said the EVMs were “foolproof” and that it was examining what legal action “can and should be taken in the matter.”

The man, identified as Syed Shuja from Hyderabad, appeared at a news conference through Skype. He said he was based in the United States, where he got political asylum after fleeing India due to threats to his life.

According to Shuja, who said he also went by other names, 200 seats in the 2014 elections that would have been won by the Congress were rigged in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party by manipulating data transmission through what he called “military-grade modulators” installed in various parts of the country. He did not provide any proof.

The Election Commission has previously shown EVMs to be safe. Experts, too, pointed out that the machines were not networked, which rules out hacking.

The event, organised by the Indian Journalists Association and the Foreign Press Association, was supposed to feature the live demonstration of EVMs being hacked, but Shuja cried off, claiming he was attacked recently, which also explained his absence in London, and that individuals who were to bring the EVMs from India were brought off, explaining lack of machines that could be hacked at the event.

Shuja went on to allege that senior BJP leader and former Union minister Gopinath Munde was murdered because he was about to expose the malpractice. He also alleged that journalist Gauri Lankesh was killed because she was about to publish details of the EVMs being hacked.

The brunt of Shuja’s allegations were directed at the BJP, but he claimed he has been approached by various parties, including the Congress, Aam Admi Party, Samajwadi Party and regional parties to help hack EVMs during elections.

Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal was present at the press conference declined comment. IJA president Ashis Ray said he invited leaders of all parties to attend the event, but only Sibal had turned up. 

According to Shuja, he and his team prevented EVMs being hacked during the 2015 elections to the Delhi assembly, when AAP won a landslide majority. The recent elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Telangana (the Congress won the first three and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi the last) were also rigged through the EVMs, he alleged. He alleged that the Election Commission is “100 per cent involved” in the malpractice. Shuja’s status of being granted political asylum in the US could not immediately be verified from the US embassy in London due to Monday being a holiday (Martin Luther King Day).

The EC added in its statement that: “It needs to be reiterated that these EVMs are manufactured in Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) under very strict supervisory and security conditions and there are rigorous Standard Operating Procedures meticulously observed at all stages under the supervision of a Committee of eminent technical experts constituted way back in 2010.”

Union minister Arun Jaitley tweeted: “After Rafale, the non-existent loan waiver to 15 industrialists – the next big lie – EVM hacking. Was the Election Commission & millions of Staffers involved in manufacturing, programming of EVMs & conduct of elections during the UPA Government in collusion with the BJP – absolutely rubbish. Does the Congress feel that the people are so gullible that they will swallow any garbage? Insanity in the Congress party is increasingly becoming contagious.”

Abhishek Singhvi, senior spokesperson, Congress said the issue was discussed at a meeting of opposition parties on saturday. “All parties are extremely concerned about the EVM issue. Although we may want to revert completely to paper ballot but due to paucity of time, we must have at least the use of 100% VVPAT in the election”, he added. The Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail is used to verify and audit votes cast in an EVM.

That demand was seconded by CPIM general secretary, Sitaram Yechury: “The EC always maintained that VVPAT or paper trails are not possible for such a large scale. But now, after the latest news coming from UK, we demand that the EC must go for 100% VVPAT for the 2019 polls”.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted: “Our great democracy must be protected. Every vote of yours is precious. All Oppn parties discussed the #EVM. issue after the #UnitedIndiaAtBrigade rally. We are working closely together and decided on Jan 19 itself to consistently take up the matter with EC. Yes,every vote counts.”

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Prasun Sonwalkar was Editor (UK & Europe), Hindustan Times. During more than three decades, he held senior positions on the Desk, besides reporting from India’s north-east and other states, including a decade covering politics from New Delhi. He has been reporting from UK and Europe since 1999.

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