EVM hacking: Sibal defends his presence at London event, says Syed Shuja's claims sounded like science fiction

New Delhi, News Nation Bureau | Updated : 23 January 2019, 12:28 AM
Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal addresses media on EVM hacking row
Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal addresses media on EVM hacking row

Syed Shuja, a US-based self-proclaimed cyber expert, on Monday alleged that the 2014 general elections in India were rigged and that senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde was murdered because he knew about the tampering at an event organised by Indian Journalists Association London where senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal was present. The Bharatiya Janata Party launched a blistering attack on the Congress party and said that the event was "Congress-sponsored conspiracy" designed to "defame" Indian democracy and its Election Commission.

Kapil Sibal, who was caught on camera, attending the event today said that Ashish Ray, Indian Journalists Association London President, sent him a personal e-mail and insisted him to attend the press conference. “Indian Journalists Association London President Ashish Ray told me he has sent invitations to all political parties including the BJP and also the Election Commission,” Kapil Sibal said.

“He (Ashish Ray) sent me a personal e-mail also. I told him that I will be in London for some personal work and he insisted that I should come as they are going to make an important revelation. So, I went,” he added.

Kapil Sibal also demanded a probe into the charges made by a self-proclaimed US-based cyber expert, terming them as "very serious" as they concern the survival of democracy in India. Sibal said this is an issue of free and fair elections. The issue is whether the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), can be tampered with. "This is an issue concerning the survival of democracy in India," he told reporters.

"There should be an inquiry in the charges he (Shuja) has made. The Supreme Court and the law says there should be an FIR. It is your responsibility, if someone is making allegations it is important to ascertain whether the charges are right or not. If the charges are wrong, take action against him. If they are right, then it is a very serious thing," Sibal said.

On Monday, Syed Shuja said that the BJP had won election by hacking into Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), the ruling party launched a stinging attack on the Congress and said it has already started looking for an "alibi" for its certain loss in the coming Lok Sabha polls.

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters that the Indian Journalists' Association, which had organised the conference, is headed by Ashis Ray who, he claimed, is a "committed Congressman" and has been singing paeans in support of Congress president Rahul Gandhi.

He contributes to National Herald, a Congress mouthpiece, "campaigns" for the Congress on social media and has often attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Prasad claimed, adding that he had also organised Gandhi's public event in London.

There has been no reaction from Ray to the BJP's comments so far. Targeting the Congress, Prasad questioned the presence of its leader Kapil Sibal at the event. "What was Sibal doing there? In what capacity was he present? My charge is that he was there to monitor the event for the Congress. It was a Congress-sponsored conspiracy designed to defame Indian democracy and its Election Commission," Prasad said, also calling it a Congress-scripted exercise.

The BJP leader also dismissed Sibal's claim that he was present in his personal capacity, saying he was intelligent enough to know implications of his being there. He claimed that Sibal went there by deliberate design.

He said the invite for the event had claimed that the hacking of EVMs will be shown but the "gentleman" appeared in the US wearing a mask. Ridiculing the London event as a circus and political stunt, the BJP leader said he had never heard of Syed Shuja, who claimed to be a cyber expert and made the outlandish and explosive allegations at the press conference, even though he, as Union IT minister, keeps in touch with experts and developments in the field.

"I could not understand this drama. He (Suja) offered no proof and nor did he present himself to questioning by the media. No evidence, no corroboration and no question and such big allegations were levelled," he said.

Prasad alleged it was a Congress-sponsored conspiracy and asked if opposition parties wanted to revert to the use of ballot papers in elections, alleging that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress had used them to rig local polls in the state last year as the government did not use EVMs.

The Congress is the "biggest culprit" when it comes to weakening institutions while it levels this allegation at our leader, he said, apparently referring to the opposition party's accusation against Prime Minister Narendra Modi of attacking institutions. He also expressed his party's "deep pain" at the allegation in the London event that Union minister Gopinath Munde was "murdered" in because he was aware of the 2014 poll "rigging" and was set to disclose it. He dismissed it as rubbish.

Munde had died in a road accident in New Delhi weeks after the BJP won the 2014 elections. Name of a deceased person was used as he could no longer respond, Prasad said, adding that an AIIMS doctor, who was involved in Munde's postmortem, had Monday stated that the reason of his death was neck injury suffered in the accident.

Gandhi should answer as to how many more alibies he was going to invent for party's loss in the Lok Sabha polls, Prasad asked. The London event was also meant to defame the popular mandate in 2014, he said, noting that it was not the BJP but the Congress which was then in power. The BJP had swept to power in 2014.

The Union minister said the EVMs have been in use since 1996 and non-BJP parties have won so many elections since them. "When the BJP wins, then the EVMs become suspect. What kind of logic is this," he asked, adding that there cannot be a more "shameful" argument which is designed to compromise Indian electoral process.

No political party or expert had taken up the open challenge thrown by the EC in 2017 for hacking the EVMs, he said, adding it's shameful that a political party that had ruled the country for close to six decades is "sponsoring" such shameful attacks on the commission.

The Supreme Court had also dismissed in November last a petition seeking re-introduction of ballot papers in elections.

First Published: Tuesday, January 22, 2019 06:11 PM
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