London: An Indian cyber professional touted as an expert by a section of the media, on Monday claimed that the 2014 general election in India was “rigged” through the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), which, he says, can be hacked. The ‘expert’ has sought political asylum in the US.
Addressing a press conference in London via Skype, the man, identified as Syed Suja, said he fled India in 2014 because he felt threatened in the country after the ‘killing’ of some of his team members. He claimed the telecom giant Reliance Jio helped the BJP get low-frequency signals to hack the EVMs.
The claim flies in the face of several clarifications by the Election Commission as well as technicians involved in creating the prototype before EVMs were introduced in India that the Indian voting machines are stand-alone units and, therefore, influencing an election by hacking them would mean hacking each one of the thousands of EVMs individually.
The claim is questionable also because the EVM units are kept in government custody before reaching the booths, and the government at the time of the alleged act of hacking was that of the Congress-led UPA.
Shuja said the BJP would have won Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh elections if his team hadn’t intercepted the BJP attempts to hack the transmissions in these states in the recent Assembly elections.
The outlandish but explosive claims, made in a cloak and dagger manner, could not be immediately confirmed. He claimed he was part of a team at the public sector Electronic Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL), which designed and developed the EVMs. He was presented at a press conference organised by the Indian Journalists’ Association (Europe).
Although he appeared on screen through Skype, his face was masked.
India’s Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora earlier this month said that the EVMs were tamper-proof and an expert committee was looking after their functioning.
There is absolutely nothing to doubt about the integrity of the system, Arora said, adding that the entire functioning of the EVMs is being looked after by a highly-qualified technical committee.
Several political parties in the past have alleged that the EVMs are prone to tampering and demanded reintroduction of the ballot papers.
Speaking at the event in London, Shuja claimed that he worked for the ECIL from 2009-2014.
Shuja said that he was part of a team which designed the EVMs used in the 2014 elections. 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. “The 2014 general elections were rigged,” he claimed. He also alleged that the Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Delhi election results were rigged during the elections.
The ‘expert’ claimed that the EVMs were hacked by the BJP using a modulator which transmits military-grade frequency. He claimed further that BJP leader and union minister Gopinath Munde was “killed” because he was aware of EVM hacking in 2014 general elections. Munde died in a road accident in New Delhi weeks after the BJP won the 2014 elections.
Shuja claimed that the NIA officer investigating Munde’s death, Tanzil Ahmed, was planning to file an FIR noting he had been murdered but was himself killed. “In Delhi state elections in 2015, we managed to intercept the transmission, resulting in the AAP winning 67 out of 70 seats. Otherwise, the BJP would have swept,” he claimed.
Claims turn curious
That does not explain how the BJP could not manage to win the 2013 election or how the AAP managed a respectable score even in that election after which he ran a 49-day government. But then, the self-styled expert said that the Samajwadi Party, BSP, AAP and Congress were involved in EVM-rigging, too!
Shuja said some of his team members were killed and he was allegedly attacked but he survived. He said he met a prominent Indian journalist and told him the whole story about the EVM rigging.
The Election Commission and political parties were invited to be at press meet, but only Congress leader Kapil Sibal attended the event, he added.
Tanzil Ahmed murder theory questionable
The antecedents of the suspected killer of NIA officer Tanzil Ahmed have nothing to do with Gopinath Munde. Muneer, a former student of Aligarh Muslim University with a long criminal record, has confessed to the law-enforcement agency that he was angry with Ahmed for having alerted the police about some of his accomplices and getting them arrested.
The mastermind was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Special Task Force (STF) from the Bisrakh area of Noida (officially called Gautam Budh Nagar) on 28 June 2016.
“Muneer, who masterminded the murder, and his accomplice Adnan were arrested by the STF. Muneer was carrying a reward of Rs. 2 lakh,” IG (STF) Ramkumar had told reporters in Lucknow after the arrest.
Muneer was involved in a number of criminal activities, including looting Rs. 34 lakh from a bank cashier in Bannadevi area of Aligarh in 2014, Rs. 31 lakh from a PNB employee in civil lines area there in the same year and Rs. 1.5 crore from a cash van in Kamla Nagar locality in New Delhi on November 29, 2014, the IG said.
Muneer confessed to looting a 9 mm pistol from the bodyguard of a judge in Gomti Nagar area of Lucknow, which was used in the killing of the NIA officer.
Mamata latches on to the ‘expert’
Soon after Shuja’s press meet in London, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the opposition will take up with the Election Commission the claims made by the US-based cyber expert that Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) can be hacked. She 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
— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) January 21, 2019
Election Commission rubbishes ‘expert’ opinion
Making mincemeat of the claims above, the Election Commission (EC) of India issued a statement this evening, that read: “… ECI has been wary of becoming a party to this motivated slugfest, ECI firmly stands by the empirical facts about (the) foolproof nature of ECI EVMs deployed in elections in India.”
The statement read: “… 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.”
The EC is contemplating legal action against the ‘expert’.