The EC must clear doubts about EVM

The EC must clear doubts about EVM

The Election Commission of India, expectedly, has come out firmly against the most serious and sensational allegations levelled by Syed Shuja of EVM...

The Election Commission of India, expectedly, has come out firmly against the most serious and sensational allegations levelled by Syed Shuja of EVM rigging in 2014 elections. The EC also is understood to be examining the kind of legal action it could take against Shuja or those who facilitated the meeting in London. Will Shuja face prosecution for rigging, or defamation? If EC prosecutes him for rigging, that amounts to partial proof of rigging. If it initiates action for defamation, the real question will be who is defamed?

Though rigging might not have happened in fact, the authorities have a duty to rule it out even as a possibility. The credibility of Indian democracy, Election Commission and of course, of EVMs is at stake, more than the fame of EC or criminality of Syed Shuja. The authorities have a duty to instil confidence among the people that their votes truly reached the intended. The entire edifice of Constitutional mechanism to elect the representative government as per Representation of People Act will crumble if even one part of the allegation about rigging becomes a possibility.

Some political parties including the Congress believed that ballot machines are capable of being manipulated, and not capable of verification. The EC assured that EVMs are manufactured by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) under ‘very strict’ supervisory and security conditions following rigorous standard operating procedures ‘meticulously observed’ at all stages under the supervision of a committee of eminent technical experts constituted in 2010. The ECIL came out with a strong statement that neither Shuja nor any member of his team was ever on their employees list. The ECIL’s response has come out as a great relief as that could prove one of the basic claims of the so-called cyber expert was baseless.

Shuja fled India in 2014 feeling insecure because of killing of some of his team members. Most startling allegation was regarding BJP leader Gopinath Munde, who died in a car accident in 2014. He said that Munde was killed because he knew their rigging, and similarly journalist Gauri Lankesh was also murdered as she was about to run a story on the EVM hacking after he approached her.

He alleged that Tanzil Ahmed, the officer of the National Investigating Agency, who was investigating into Munde's case, was killed because he was about to file an FIR concluding that the BJP leader had been murdered. Ahmed was shot dead before he could file the report. Speaking to Republic TV, the NIA has cleared the air saying that officer Tanzil Mohammad was shot dead over a property dispute, and his killer Muneer had also admitted to his crime.

Notably, Dr Sudhir Gupta, head of forensic medicals at AIIMS and the doctor who headed the post-mortem of the deceased BJP leader, also clarified that the case of 'homicide' in Munde's death had been ruled out after discussing it with the Delhi police and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The CBI in October 2014 also ruled out any foul play in the death of Gopinath Munde, claiming that the politician had died due to injuries sustained in a road accident.

Shuja confessed that his team wanted to blackmail the BJP threatening to expose rigging truth and approached the leaders of ruling party in Hyderabad (it is not known why the BJP leaders were approached in Hyderabad). He explained that they were attacked with guns killing some of his colleagues, and the entire murderous attack was covered up projecting it as ‘communal clash’. This led him to flee from India for life and taking asylum in the US.

The cyber expert claimed to have intercepted the ‘signals’ emanating from the EVMs used in the 2015 Delhi elections, and that the BJP would have won the polls had they not done this. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) recorded landslide victory by winning 67 of the 70 Assembly seats in that election.

Shuja revealed that the BJP would have swept the recent Assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh had his team not ‘intercepted the signals’ coming from the machines. The BJP lost the three Hindi heartland States to the Congress in spite of several reports of EVM tampering or malfunctioning.

As Shuja went on to make allegations against many political parties including the Congress, the AAP, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Opposition was not in a position to extract any mileage but left huge doubts about EVM’s functional capabilities. The people in general should get right information about the truth of possibility of EVM hacking.

Another interesting claim of Shuja was that before approaching Gauri Lankesh, he had met a “famous Indian journalist who shouts on TV every night” and tried to bring the EVM tampering to light, but that journalist did not run the story. It is difficult to believe these wild and sensational aspects, but they are enough to raise suspicions about the EVMs.

The Foreign Press Association gave a series of tweets saying that the cyber expert has made “very serious allegations” on corruption and intimation in 2014 in India, adding that he was attacked a few days ago (an attack which he allegedly survived). Furthermore, he also claimed to have been attacked over these accusations. One tweet here reads, “900 million people are eligible to vote in India this year”. Syed Shuja is making very strong but unsubstantiated allegations on rigging that is ‘happening even now’.

Not only this, Italian journalist Deborah Bonetti, who was moderating the event and asking questions to the cyber hacker from the stage, also made clear statements that the EVM expert, who is seeking political asylum in the US, had ‘no proof at all’ for the ‘extreme allegations’ that he had made about the elections in India and in London. Notably, he also claimed that the Brexit referendum that took place in 2016 ‘was also hacked’. Syed Shuja has not furnished any evidence either during the press conference or thereafter. Still, the Election Commission, the ECIL and BEL should demonstrate to the people that EVMs are beyond manipulation.

The VVPAT is proclaimed to be an independent verification system for voting machines designed to allow voters to verify that their vote was cast correctly, to detect possible election fraud or malfunction, and to provide a means to audit the stored electronic results. It was also stated that it contains the name of the candidate (for whom the vote has been cast) and symbol of the party/individual candidate. Then why not the VVPAT is used to verify the polled votes in the constituencies or booths where the allegation of rigging was made, and convince the voters about EVMs?

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