- The hacker said he could hack electronic voting machines (EVMs) in India
- Election Commission called the claims a "motivated slugfest"
- Election Commission officials said the EVMs are "tamper proof"
The Election Commission on Monday dismissed the claims made by a London-based hacker, who said he can hack the electronic voting machines used in India. The controversial, unsubstantiated claims of the hacker - made during a so-called hackathon this evening - comes amid a renewed focus on EVMs by the united opposition, which has formed a committee to spearhead the campaign for their removal and a return to ballot papers.
Dr Rajat Moona, the top technical expert with the Election Commission, told NDTV that EVMs are "stand-alone machines which have absolutely no capability of transmitting or receiving any data through any wireless communication of any sort". This is why they are "tamper proof", said Dr Moona, who is the director of the Indian Institute of Technology, Bhilai, and a member of a "technical expert committee" of the Election Commission on EVMs.
In a statement later, the Election Commission called it a "motivated slugfest" and said they would explore "what legal action can and should be taken in the matter". The Commission said it "firmly stands by the empirical facts about foolproof nature of ECI EVMs deployed in elections in India".
The hacker, who identified himself as Syed Shuja, said Indian EVMs are "standalone devices", which cannot be hacked remotely. They contain old chips manufactured when there was no Wi-Fi or Bluetooth technology. So while it was not possible to hack individual machines, with their algorithm, it was possible to tweak the machines, he claimed.
"All you needed was a machine which could transmit at very low frequencies... we acquired a graphite-based transmitter," he added.
The unsubstantiated claims of the hacker are expected to turn up the opposition pitch for the removal of EVMs. Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal was present at the event where the hacker made his claims. At the programme, which was broadcast live on Facebook, the hacker also made a number of unsubstantiated political claims.
In a series of tweets, Union minister Arun Jaitley, who is in the US for a routine medical check-up, ripped into the Congress.
After Rafale, the non-existent loan waiver to 15 industrialists - the next big lie - EVM hacking.— Arun Jaitley (@arunjaitley) January 21, 2019
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.— Arun Jaitley (@arunjaitley) January 21, 2019
Does the Congress feel that the people are so gullible that they will swallow any garbage?— Arun Jaitley (@arunjaitley) January 21, 2019
Insanity in the Congress party is increasingly becoming contagious
The BJP's Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said, "The Congress has a lot of freelancers, who sometimes reach even Pakistan to take help for removing Modi -ji. They are making a hacking horror show of their possible defeat in the upcoming elections".
While the Congress has been silent on the issue, Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted as the event was in progress.
"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," her tweet read.
Ms Banerjee had hosted the huge, 23-party opposition rally in Kolkata on Saturday. After the rally, a four-party committee has been tasked with formulating a strategy to take the opposition campaign forward.
Part of its agenda is electoral reforms, which would include pushing for the minimum use of electronic voting machines and advocate the use of VVPATs or voter-verified paper audit trail machines on at least 50 per cent of the EVMs used.
The group of four will have a leader each from the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party.