On Monday, just days after opposition parties pledged to launch a campaign against the tampering of Electronic Voting Machines, a US-based “cyber expert” Syed Shuja alleged that the EVMs used in the 2014 general elections were rigged. He also claimed that a Union Minister was killed because “he knew about electronic voting machines (EVM) hacking”.
The claims have been vociferously refuted by the Election Commission of India, while some of Shuja’s other claims have come under scrutiny and caused
What we know about the accuser
Shuja, who claims to have worked for the Electronics Corporation of India (ECIL) from 2009 to 2014, was supposed to demonstrate live how EVMs can be hacked at the European chapter of the Indian Journalists’ Association in London. However, he addressed the smattering of Indian media
He said that he and his team were instructed by the ECIL to find out if EVMs could be hacked, and find out how to do this.
Shuja had allegedly worked on the team which designed EVMs during the 2014 polls but was forced to flee and seek asylum in the US after he decided to act on certain revelations related to the rigged EVMs. He also claimed that then Chief Election Commissioner VS Sampath was aware of the large-scale rigging.
Gauri Lankesh and Gopinath Munde’s deaths have this in common, claims Shuja
Shuja claimed that senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde who died in a car crash shortly after the 2014 polls had been murdered for threatening to “expose” the government for the rigged elections. He further claimed that the officer probing Munde’s death, Tanzil Ahmed, also died while he was looking into Munde’s death and was planning to file an FIR regarding the same.
The self-proclaimed cyber expert also claimed that his team members were shot and killed in Hyderabad during the elections in April 2014, in
Shuja added via Skype that he had helped several opposition parties win in the subsequent years, by intercepting the low-frequency transmissions. He referred to AAP’s victory in Delhi and Congress’s recent hat-trick in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, which he claims would not be possible if his team had not intercepted the BJP’s attempts to hack the transmission. The tampering is accomplished by using a “military grade” modulator to tap into a low frequency.
Reliance lent technical support: Shuja
The cloak and dagger accusations then continued to name Reliance Jio as the technical mastermind behind the hacking of these low-frequency signals; the modulator was sold to Reliance between 2012-2014, he said.
Shuja was then asked by a reporter to elaborate on how Jio could have helped the BJP in this alleged
Later, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad raised this point, saying that the EVM technology used in the 2014 polls was ratified by a committee in
The EC and numerous political parties were invited for the presentation in London, where Shuja further claimed that Congress, SP
Democracy in distress
The credibility of these wild allegations is highly questionable though Shuja claims he got asylum only after he furnished the US authorities with the evidence to back his claims.
The record performance by the BJP in the 2014 polls, where it won a single-party majority of 282 out of 543 Lok Sabha for the first time since 1984, has acted as a basis for several allegations of tampering to surface in the past. But none of them were as sensational as this, coming from a rogue fugitive insider.
Several incidents of malfunctioning voting machines were reported during the Assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan last year, but the CEC Sunil Arora said that this accounted for only 1% of the machines and claimed that malfunctioning was not the same as tampering. Whether Shuja’s testimony strengthens the opposition’s case for reintroducing ballot papers remains to be seen, but for now, these claims will be investigated to establish their veracity. The EC has lodged a preliminary report with the Delhi police against the masked speaker, ANI reported.
That said, even a grain of truth to Shuja’s claims could prove to be catastrophic for the prospects of BJP’s return to the
‘A motivated slugfest’: EC
The EC in response maintained that the machines are foolproof and the Commission is mulling over what legal action can be taken regarding the press conference in London.
“It has come to our notice that an event claiming to demonstrate EVMs used by ECI can be tampered with, has been
In its statement, the Commission added, “It needs to be reiterated that these EVMs are manufactured in Bharat Electronics Limited and Electronics Corporation of India Limited 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. It is being separately examined as to what legal action can and should be taken in the matter.”
According to latest reports, the EC is preparing to press criminal charges against Shuja and intends to invoke Section 505 1(b) of the IPC which pertains to statements related to public mischief “with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public”.
The BJP has rejected the expert’s claim that the 2014 General Election was rigged and called his allegation as a “hacking horror show
Congress is looking for alibi to lose: Law Ministry
Meanwhile, Prasad lashed back at the speaker, criticising him for undermining the popular mandate of the people in 2014. He called the event Congress-sponsored and accused the party of seeking an excuse for their impending loss in the coming elections.
Claiming that nations across the world wish to emulate the Indian electoral exercise, Prasad reminded the press conference of the Cambridge Analytica controversy, which incidentally incriminated both the BJP and Congress last year.
After CA whistleblower Christopher Wylie’s deposition in March 2018, Congress accused the BJP of working with the political consultancy to bring down the UPA government in 2014. Wylie had mentioned Congress in his testimony, saying that the party may have retained their services to influence regional elections with data mined illegally from Facebook.
The Congress then asked the government to name the NRI businessman who allegedly paid Wylie’s predecessor to manufacture false surveys, to ask leading questions against the UPA government. This was based on statements by Paul-Olivier Dehaye (co-founder of privacy watchdog PersonalData.IO), and Avneesh Rai (co-founder of the Indian counterpart of CA), both of whom claimed that an Indian billionaire who wanted Congress to lose elections was working with the political consultancy firm.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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