The question that everybody seems to be asking after recent poll results in J&K, is how has BJP taken Chenab Valley? With a number of politicians blaming EVMs for BJP’s surprising victory, conspiracy theories are already doing rounds. Syed Asma reports
In Chenab valley, BJP won four of six seats in the recent state Assembly elections. It was shockingly surprising for one and all. The saffron ideologue could never inspire the people of Chenab, history reminds. Apart from in 1996 when BJP managed to win a Ramban seat, the party could never manage to win Kishtwar, Inderwal, Doda, Bhaderwah and Banihal.
A few pundits attribute BJP’s win to the inefficiency of former MLAs but many others are apprehensive of the authenticity of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM).
“We could never imagine BJP emerging as a winner in Muslim majority areas of Chenab – Doda, Kishtwar and Bhaderwah. BJP is an established Hindu hardliner party and their stand regarding Muslim is not a secret,” says a political worker of a regional party in Doda.
He (the political worker) has an interesting anecdote to share. “Before the election results were out, I met a political worker of BJP. While bragging about the Modi wave in India, he mentioned a particular number of votes that BJP candidates would get and surprisingly it is exactly the same number that the candidate got.”
It must be a coincidence, he adds, but getting apprehensive about it also makes sense.
Another interesting incident surfaced in Habba Kadal when EVMs did not display a single vote in Muneer Bhat’s, an independent candidate, favour.
“People may not have voted in Bhat’s favour but the machine even does not show up his own vote,” alleges Sanjay Saraf, President of Lok Janshakti Party, “Where did it go?”
Apart from Saraf, political analysts and workers of the regional parties, patron of JK Panther’s Party Bhim Singh, also smells rat in this year’s electoral proceedings.
Singh openly criticizes the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and does not hesitate to call them faulty.
He asserts manipulation of EVMs to convenience of the interested parties is the main reason of 80 per cent poll turn-out in Jammu and Kashmir.
He adds the use of EVMs has discredited the Indian parliamentary democracy particularly when the political party in power (in Centre) is also contesting the polls.
Strongly rejecting the recent polls held in Jammu and Kashmir, Singh requests Election Commission of India (ECI) to order a probe. The PP patron has maintained the same statement since the campaigning of the 2014 elections started. He even took the matter with the Governor, requested him to cancel the fresh elections and order probe.
Thinking over similar lines, a lawyer from Doda, Asim Hashmi says it is not possible that suddenly a particular party becomes powerful across the country. “BJP can’t be like, ‘you name it and they have it’. It is not possible. There is something fishy which needs to be found out.”
Hashmi along with his like-minds may sound cynical – looking at the success of Modi across India and his growing fan club. The cynicism is not roaring only in Kashmir’s Chenab Valley but the usage of EVMs is criticized in India as well. Indian technocrats have shared the possibilities of tampering with EVMs and have warned the Election Commission from time to time.
Netindia Ltd, a Hyderabad-based research and development firm, along with the research students of University of Michigan, have analysed the Indian manufactured EVMs. The group has come up with a full-fledged academic article, ‘Security Analysis of India’s Electronic Voting Machines’, analysing the EVM’s inside-out.
The group establishes that the EVMs used in India are not tamper-proof and are susceptible to a range of attacks. The miscreants may only need access to one of the EVMs to develop working attacks.
The technocrats believe the Indian EVMs can be manipulated without involvement of dishonest election insiders. Even if everyone behaves honestly, attackers can still manipulate the system by directly manipulate the internal state of the machine in ways not contemplated by its designers.
The research article analysing the EVMs informs, “the EVM firmware is stored in masked read-only memory inside the microcontroller chips, and there is no provision for extracting it or verifying its integrity. This means that if the software was modified before it was built into the CPUs, the changes would be very difficult to detect.”
The article further adds the engineers and the employees at the chipmakers could also alter the compiled program image before burning it into the chips.
Though the first EVM was manufactured in India in 1980’s by Electronics Corporation of India (ECIL) but the campaign of its introduction into the electoral process started in 1990.
Manufactured in partnership with ECIL and Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), ECI has started using EVMs since the year 2004. Establishing a global market, the two companies are exporting the Indian manufactured EVM’s to Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh.
In India the first government sponsored study of EVMs was conducted by a committee’ composed of C Rao Kasarbada, P V Indiresan, and S Sampath, none of whom was a computer security expert. Besides, the committee had no access to EVM source code; instead, it relied on presentations and demonstrations by the manufacturers.
Steadily, the EVM’s were deployed in India in some of the constituencies and later nationwide in 2004. Pertinently, the use of similar paperless electronic voting machines has been discontinued in California, Florida, Ireland, the Netherlands and Germany.
In recent years there have been numerous allegations regarding Indian EVMs but the authorities never took them seriously. However, the allegations paint a troubling picture of elections in India.
Strengthening the apprehensions of tempering with EMVs and manipulating the results In Jammu and Kashmir, it was said that state procured at least 15,000 Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) from Gujarat. These were procured only after Election Commission of India approved them to cover all 10015 polling stations.
Criticizing the ECI’s decision to procure EVMs manufactured from Gujarat, National Conference Additional General Secretary, Dr Shiekh Mustafa Kamal told a local news agency, “It is surprising and a million dollar question why among the 28 states only EVM’s from Gujarat were selected and dispatched to Jammu and Kashmir.”