A self-proclaimed US-based Indian cyber expert on Monday made a sensational claim that the 2014 Lok Sabha elections was "rigged" through the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), which, he said, can be hacked, a charge rejected by the Election Commission of India.
Addressing a press conference in London via Skype, the man, identified as Syed Shuja, said he fled India in 2014 because he felt threatened in the country after the killing of some of his team members. Although he appeared on screen through Skype, his face was masked.
Shuja added he was seeking political asylum in the US. Shuja, who created a flutter, also alleged that other than the BJP, the SP, BSP, AAP and Congress too are involved in rigging of the EVMs. There was no immediate reaction from any of these parties.
He was presented at the press conference held under the aegis of the Indian Journalists' Association (Europe).
He said the BJP would have won the recent Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections if his team hadn't intercepted the alleged attempts by the saffron party to hack the "transmissions" in these states.
Rejecting the outlandish and explosive claims, made in a cloak and dagger manner, the Election Commission of India(ECI) asserted that it firmly stands by the 'foolproof nature' of its machines even as it said it is examining as to what legal action "can and should" be taken in the matter.
In a statement released in New Delhi, the poll panel said whereas it is "wary of becoming a party to this motivated slugfest", it firmly stands by the "empirical facts about foolproof nature of ECI EVMs" used in elections in India.
The ECI reiterated that the EVMs used by it are manufactured by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL), both state-owned, under "very strict" supervisory and security conditions.
It said there are rigorous standard operating procedures "meticulously observed" at all stages under the supervision of a committee of technical experts constituted in 2010.
Shuja claimed he was part of a team at the ECIL
Several political parties in the past have alleged that the EVMs are prone to tampering and demanded reintroduction of the ballot papers.
Soon after Shuja's press meet in London, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the opposition will take up with the Election Commission the claims made by Shuja.
"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," she tweeted.
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Speaking at the event in London, Shuja claimed he worked for the ECIL from 2009-2014.
Shuja said he was part of a team which designed the EVMs used in the 2014 elections. He said that he and his team were instructed by the ECIL to find out if EVMs could be hacked, and find out how to do this.
"The 2014 general elections were rigged," he claimed. The BJP-led NDA came to power ousting the Congress-led UPA in 2014.
Shuja also alleged that the Lok Sabha election results in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Delhi in 2014 were rigged.
The self-styled cyber expert alleged that the EVMs were hacked by the BJP using a modulator which transmits military-grade frequency. There was no immediate reaction from the BJP.
He also claimed that BJP leader and union minister Gopinath Munde was "killed" because he was aware of EVM hacking in 2014 general elections.
Munde died in a road accident in New Delhi weeks after the BJP won the 2014 elections in May.
Shuja also claimed the NIA officer investigating Munde's death, Tanzil Ahmed, was planning to file an FIR noting he had been murdered, but was himself killed.
"In Delhi state elections in 2015, we managed to intercept the transmission, resulting in the AAP winning 67 out of 70 seats. Otherwise the BJP would have swept," he claimed.
Shuja said some of his team members were killed and he was also allegedly attacked but survived.
He said he met a prominent Indian journalist and told him the whole story about the alleged EVM rigging.
The Election Commission and political parties were invited to be at the press meet but only Congress leader Kapil Sibal attended the event, he added.