The run-up to the upcoming 2019 general election took an unprecedented turn on Monday evening when cyber expert Syed Shuja—who claims to have worked previously for the ECIL from 2009-2014 and who has also designed EVMs in India—made certain allegations against the ruling BJP government and the Election Commission. The claims were refuted by the Election Commission.
In a scene from a suspense thriller, a presentation was organised by the European chapter of the Indian Journalists’ Association in London where Shuja was brought in on a video call with a room full of reporters, including numerous Indian news organisations such as India Today, Anandabazar Patrika, Times Now and The Quint. Shuja was supposed to demonstrate live how EVMs can be hacked, but was brought in on video call since he claims he was attacked four days ago. Shuja claimed he was part of a team which designed EVMs used during the 2014 elections. He claimed he fled India and sought political asylum in the US because he felt threatened in India.
The first bombshell dropped by Shuja was that of Gopinath Munde—a senior BJP leader from Maharashtra who died in a road accident around a fortnight after the BJP swept the 2014 Lok Sabha elections—was actually murdered because he knew that EVMs were being rigged. Shuja claimed Munde was about to “expose” the government on this issue, which is why he was murdered.
According to The Quint, Shuja alleged that he and his team were instructed by ECIL to find out whether EVMs could be hacked and to find out how to do this. His second claim was that his team was shot and killed in a Hyderabad suburb in April 2014 during the elections, where they went to meet a BJP leader after realising that low-frequency signals were being emitted from EVMs. Shuja and his team had tried to set up a meeting with BJP leaders with the intent of blackmailing the ruling party with what they knew, and when they went to visit the leader’s house, they were shot and killed. Shuja too was allegedly shot, but survived.
Shuja further alleged that during the Delhi state elections in 2015, people he was currently working with to “save Indian democracy” who were located in India managed to “intercept the transmission” which resulted in the AAP winning 67 out of 70 seats. “Otherwise the BJP would have swept,” he claimed. Referring to the recently conducted state elections in which the BJP lost the Hindi heartland, Shuja also claimed that if his people had not intercepted the BJP attempts to hack the transmission in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the party would have won those states too.
Shuja didn’t stop here. He claimed he had narrated the entire story of EVM rigging to a “famous Indian journalist who shouts on TV every night” but nothing came out of it even though the journalist had promised to tell his story. He claimed that Gauri Lankesh had agreed to run the story for him but she too was killed. “She was waiting to run the story, but she was murdered.”
Shuja also claimed that Reliance Jio was the one who had helped the BJP get the low-frequency signals to hack EVMs. When a reporter asked Shuja that since Reliance Jio was not around in 2014, who exactly was it who had helped the BJP with technology for these frequency hacks, Shuja went on to suggest the reporter ask that question to Kapil Sibal since “he was the one who actually gave approval…”
“Reliance Communications have the network to transmit the data, BJP is the beneficiary. There are nine places in India where there are facilities. The employees don’t know that they are tampering with EVMs. They think they are doing data entry,” alleged Shuja, according to The Quint’s live blog report.
While there are no documents currently available to corroborate any of these claims, Shuja said he had gone on record with the US authorities when he was seeking political asylum and that the same information would be available with them.
The EC, as well as numerous political parties, were invited for the presentation. However, none of them, except for Kapil Sibal from the Congress, attended the event.
The Election Commission reacted to the proceedings, calling it a “motivated slugfest”.
In its statement, the EC added: “It needs to be reiterated that these EVMs are manufactured in Bharat Electronics Limited and Electronics Corporation of India Limited 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. It is being separately examined as to what legal action can and should be taken in the matter.”
This short has been updated to include the Election Commission’s statements.