BACKING ITS allegation on the “tampering” of electronic voting machines (EVMs), the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) held a “live demonstration” to show the “hacking” of an EVM prototype during a special session of the Delhi Assembly on Tuesday. With representatives from regional parties like RJD, CPI(M), Trinamool Congress and technocrats as witnesses in the visitors’ gallery, Greater Kailash MLA Saurabh Bhardwaj, who has a B.Tech degree, performed the “live demonstration”. After a few opening remarks by AAP MLAs on the vulnerability of EVMs, Bhardwaj brought out an EVM prototype comprising a ballot unit and control unit. He then demonstrated two rounds of “fair” voting and displayed the “results” on the control unit.
“On polling day, after a few rounds of fair voting, a BJP volunteer comes in as a voter. After voting for a candidate, during the long beep, he stealthily enters a code. Thereafter, all votes, irrespective of which party is being voted for, go to the BJP,” claimed Bhardwaj. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal intervened to ask him to “clarify (to the House) that the code is candidate-specific and not for a party”. Bhardwaj then announced a code for the BJP on the prototype. After that, eight “votes” were cast in favour of AAP, but the control unit showed that all the votes went to the BJP.
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said after days of “watching videos on YouTube” and “contemplation”, the party realised that EVMs were being tampered with. “We really wanted to be proved wrong on this… But over time, we were increasingly convinced that there is something wrong. This is not a TV studio demo, but something displayed with a lot of responsibility on the floor of the House,” he said.
“We are not questioning the IAS, IPS or paramilitary forces who guard the EVMs, but the engineers who go in to service these machines… Saurabh has shown how the tampering takes place within 80 seconds,” he said. “Questions are being raised about why we did not complain when we won 67 seats in Delhi. Yes, we did not complain then, nor did we raise questions about the 272 seats won by BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, or the Maharashtra and Jharkhand assembly polls. But when a candidate in the BMC polls pointed out that he did not get a single vote despite voting for himself, it made us think.”
Dismissing the tampering charge, BJP MLA from Rajouri Garden, Manjinder Singh Sirsa, said: “The topic of discussion today should have been very different. You should have analysed the reasons behind your losses. It is because of your false promises that you lost… You had promised to install 15 lakh CCTV cameras. Where are those cameras? Not even three schools have been constructed.”
Among those in the visitors’ gallery were Nilotpal Basu (CPI-M), Sukhendu Shekhar Roy (TMC), Manoj Jha (RJD), technocrat V V Rao, who had alleged tampering in 2009, and activist Tehseen Poonawala. Rao, Poonawala, and a team of IIT graduates who are also AAP volunteers worked on assembling the EVM prototype over the last three months, said party leaders. Bhardwaj and Kejriwal, an IIT alumnus, were part of the team too.
Speaking to The Indian Express later, Bhardwaj said: “I know of at least two dozen ways of tampering with these EVMs. Once the machines are hacked, a secret code is sent to the targeted EVMs after the mock drill in the presence of polling agents… There must be hundreds of BJP volunteers involved in this… Word does not come out because there is a huge amount of money exchanging hands… While the AAP will introspect on our shortcomings, the tampering of EVMs is also an undeniable truth. Losing the MCD polls is an insignificant thing when our democracy is facing such a threat.”
The AAP, by a voice vote, adopted a resolution appealing to President Pranab Mukherjee and the Election Commission on the use of EVMs equipped with Voter-Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines. The resolution said the VVPAT slips should be tallied in at least 25 per cent of polling booths, which should be randomly selected. The party also urged citizens to remain “ever-vigilant to protect our much cherished democracy”.