Rigged Elections

When the issue of EVM Manipulation was first raised during the left front rule in Bengal and their astronomical electoral success election after election, nobody took it seriously. Now everybody is talking about it – how EVM can be tampered with, particularly after the AAP MLA from Greater Kalish Saurabh Bhardwaj demonstrated it live in Delhi.

He proved that EVMs can be tampered with, they can be rigged, they can be hacked by entering a password code. In a live demonstration he shattered the illusion that a Modi wave has been sweeping the country since 2014.

Those who have been saying that EVMs are foolproof devices which can never be manipulated, that the voting machines used in India are like ‘‘simple stand-alone calculators’’ are entirely different from EVMs used and rejected in advanced countries, and that Election Commission of India has ‘‘full faith’’ in their efficacy, reliability and trustworthiness – have been stunned into silence.

Among the first to break the silence with hot denials were BJP spokespersons and a few media reports who have been echoing the mantra that ‘‘only losers question EVMs.’’ Quoting anonymous sources and nameless technical experts they have zeroed down to the machine that Saurabh Bhardwaj used in his live demo – it is not a real EVM, it is only a ‘‘namoona’’, they cried. The real EVMs are manufactured by the Electronic Corporation of India, which is one of the most reputable public sector organisations in the country functioning directly under the Ministry of Atomic Energy. Anybody who doubts the integrity of the ECI is anti-national, one incensed TV anchor actually said.

Another unnamed technical expert is reported to have said that Saurabh Bhardwaj’s claim that the mother-board of an EVM can be replaced in 90 seconds is a ‘‘ bogus claim’’ – ‘‘Not even one screw can be opened in 90 seconds on an actual EVM, let alone swapping a full mother-board’’, he is quoted as saying on condition of anonymity, adding that ‘‘ the claims of hacking an EVM are bogus because there are multi-level checks for EVMs before they are sent to polling booths’’.

The machine that was used in the ‘‘show-and-tell’’ demonstration is said to have been built by IIT graduates who claim it is an accurate replica of EVMs used in elections.

While the BJP clearly is in no position to concede that the test demo points to serious vulnerabilities in EVMs, since that would amount to admitting that the very legitimacy of the BJP government in states and even at the Centre is based on fraudulent manipulation of elections, leaders from Opposition parties such as Congress and Samajwadi Party are overjoyed – they are demanding a full-fledged probe to clear the doubts.

Bharadwaj himself says ‘‘Therer are secret codes that can be used to decide on the day of voting which candidate can win. To game a machine, only the motherboard needs to be changed and that can be done in 90 seconds.’’

His demonstration, he said, was meant to show that ‘‘any machine can be rigged or hacked,’’, making a case for reverting to paper ballot. ‘‘ Give us access to the EVMs that will be used in the Gujarat elections for only three hours... I challenge the BJP will not win, single booth then’’, Bharadwaj said.

What is at stake is parliamentary democracy in India. People were familier with rigged elections when there was no EVM. People know how ballots are stolen during and after elections; they also know the role muscle power plays in every election. Then ballots cannot be tampered with easily. Also rigging is now part of the game called universal adult franchise.

Meanwhile five former Election commissioners including the redoubtable TN Shesan urged the Congress party about Bhardwaj’s demonstration regarding rigged EVM. They are not convinced. But the Election Commission is yet to prove convincingly that there is no truth in Bhardwaj’s claim of how to rig EVM.

Vol. 49, No.47, May 28 - Jun 3, 2017