AAP may be right on EVM hacking. But, Saurabh Bhardwaj should answer these questions to prove his charge

By: | Updated: May 10, 2017 5:44 PM

In an unprecedented exercise in Delhi Assembly on Tuesday, AAP MLA Saurabh Bhardwaj demonstrated how an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) is rigged to benefit a certain party during elections.

evm, evm rigging, evm tampering, evm hacking, saurabh bhardwaj, aap, arvind kejriwal, election commission evm, ec evm, ec on evmAAP MLA Saurabh Bhardwaj demonstrating EVM tampering Delhi Legislative Assembly on Tuesday.

In an unprecedented exercise in Delhi Legislative Assembly on Tuesday, Aam Aadmi Party MLA Saurabh Bhardwaj, who is an engineer by training, demonstrated how an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) is rigged to benefit a certain party during elections. Ever since the conclusion of Assembly elections in Punjab and Goa, where AAP failed to score big this year, the party has been campaigning against the use of EVMs. In the recently-concluded MCD elections in Delhi too, AAP led by Arvind Kejriwal, who is also an engineer by training, had demanded polling with ballot papers. However, the demand was rejected by Delhi State Election Commission.

On Tuesday, EC condemned the demonstration by Bhardwaj in Delhi Assembly. “It is common sense that gadgets other than ECI EVMs can be programmed to perform in a pre-determined way, but it simply cannot be implied that ECI EVMs will behave in the same manner because the ECI EVMs are Technically Secured and function under an elaborate Administrative and Security Protocol,” the EC said in a press release.

“Such so-called demonstration on extraneous and duplicate gadgets which are not owned by the ECI cannot be exploited to influence our Intelligent Citizens & Electorate to assail or vilify the EVMs used by the Commission in its electoral process,” it added.

We don’t know if the polling machines could be tampered with or not. But we stand with what the Election Commission has to say on the issue.

However, Bhardwaj’s presentation attempted to make all believe that EVM rigging is rampant across the country and BJP is responsible for this. While he made his demonstration on a single ‘prototype’ machine termed by EC as “duplicate”, the AAP MLA tried to hint that even the poll panel could be complicit in the massive rigging exercise. All of this calls for a detailed explanation and solid proofs from Bhardwaj and AAP leaders, including Kejriwal, if they want people to believe in whatever they are saying about the EVMs.

Following are some claims made by Saurabh Bhardwaj in the Delhi Assembly about EVM hacking and some reasonable questions arising out of them. AAP should answer these:

1. Motherboard problem:

During his demonstration, Bhardwaj said that an EVM can be rigged by replacing its motherboard and this can be done in 90 seconds. If we believe his claim to be true and assume that it was done during Uttar Pradesh Assembly election 2017 by the BJP, it fuels several questions.

Bhardwaj didn’t say anything specific about this. But let us assume that during UP elections, rigging was done in the stores where EVMs were kept ahead of the polls. BJP and its allies won in 325 Assembly constituencies.

Let us assume that EVMs on all these seats were rigged. Now one constituency in Uttar Pradesh can have even more that 300 polling stations. For example, the Agra Cantt constituency had over 390 polling booths. If we take 300 as the average number of polling booths in a constituency and assume that just one EVM was used at each of them, then the total number of EVMs used on seats where the BJP won would be around 97,500.

Bhardwaj says motherboard can be replaced in 90 seconds. This means, a BJP man would take at least 14,62,50 minutes, or 2437 hours, or 101 days, or more than three months to replace motherboards of all these machines which allegedly helped the party win. According to Bhardwaj’s claim, it would take one man at least 7.5 hours to replace motherboards of all EVMs in a constituency (assuming there are 300 polling booths and 1 EVMs used at each of them).

EVM rigging exercise, if true, is something any party would try to finish ASAP. If BJP employed even one specialist for this exercise in a constituency, then hundreds of such experts would have been hired in UP alone.

Now, we all know that political parties and their agents are super active during elections. Is it possible that 300 experts hired for replacing motherboards of EVMs would go unnoticed by rival parties? This is not the conclusion, however. There are more baffling numbers below.

2. How many people know the codes?

Bhardwaj said that separate codes are needed to be fed in EVMs, whose motherboards were replaced earlier,  at each booth on the say of the voting. By this logic, BJP might have needed at least 97,500 people, who were provided with the codes (considering our previous assumption of 300 polling booths, and 1 EVMs).

Is it possible for so many people to remain in hiding?

The number of persons who were provided with the codes would still be large if the BJP managed to rig only 50 per cent of the polling machines.

3. Is EC complicit in EVM rigging?

The numbers discussed in the above points show it is logistically not possible during the heat of election to rig EVMs. But then, if we assume Bhardwaj is right, then needle of suspicion goes to EC. AAP should clarify this with a proof.

4. Did BJP help Congress win Punjab?

Comparing poll rigging with match fixing, Bhardwaj said parties some time lose or let others win, to not let anyone doubt what it is actually doing. By this logic, BJP should have helped Congress win in Punjab. Is this possible? And if true, how was it done? Shouldn’t Bhardwaj provide some proof to drive home his claim?

5. Did Congress rig EVMs in Punjab?

If Bhardwaj’s claim is true and BJP-SAD didn’t help Congress, then the Congress may have rigged EVMs in Punjab. In a state ruled by BJP and its ally SAD, and at a time when Centre is also led by the saffron party, can Congress manage to do so?

6. Did AAP also rig EVMs in Punjab?

AAP won 20 seats in Punjab. During his speech in the assembly, Bhardwaj said he has learnt EVM hacking and can do it if given access to the machine even for a few hours. Did AAP also rig EVMs to win those 20 seats?

7. How BJP failed to fix EVMs during 2015 Delhi Assembly elections and AAP won 67 out of 70 seats?

Bhardwaj claimed in the Assembly that BJP has learnt the art of EVM rigging in five years. Then, how the saffron party failed to do it in 2015. Or, Did AAP rig EVMs in 2015?

Bhardwaj’s speech has raised many more questions and doubts over his claims on EVM rigging. AAP and Bhardwaj should at least answer the above questions and provide some conclusive proof to support their allegation. AAP would be in a good position if it manages to do so.

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