Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) can be manipulated, says a new book by former Delhi Chief Secretary Omesh Saigal. Saigal says that he had told former Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla that the election results could be altered "if a pre-programmed code number was keyed" into the EVMs.
"A mock poll, in which the skewed result would mean that every fifth vote after the first 10 would go in favour of a particular candidate, was conducted in the presence of some eminent people where this was confirmed.
"This code could be keyed in at any stage, even at the time of the poll by any voter," he says in the book "I@S - Tale Told by an IASs" (Har-Anand Publications).
Saigal says he had doubts about the fairness of the EVMs following the "thoroughly skewed and unexpected result" of the 2009 Lok Sabha election which saw the return of the Congress-led UPA to power.
The Election Commission maintains that the EVMs cannot be tampered with.
Saigal says his analysis of the 2009 results made him believe that if 10 per cent of the votes in 7,000 carefully selected booths of the winning candidate were transferred to the losing one, "the overall result of a victory for (BJP-led) NDA, as generally predicted, would result in a defeat, as had actually happened.
"The question was: could that be done? The answer, after my detailed analysis and study: a resounding yes!"
Saigal says he told the Election Commission that there were huge gaps in the so-called safeguards claimed in favour of the EVMs.
The EVMs' manufacturer claims that programme codes once written and fused in the OTPROM (One Time Programmable Read Only Memory) cannot be read back or altered by anyone including the manufacturer.
Saigal asks: "Does this mean that even the Election Commission, when it received the machines, did not check and has not checked since whether the programme fused in by the manufacturer did not have a secret code as a string (Trojan) like the one we had prepared?"
The note given by Saigal to the poll panel went on: "If, as it seems, the Election Commission is relying on the certificate given by the manufacturer, we have no protection whatsoever against the manufacturer itself preparing a programme like the one prepared by the undersigned and fusing it on to the chip/circuit board."
Dubbing the so-called safeguards of the EVMs as "cosmetics", Saigal says he had also conducted a mock poll at the residence of then-Leader of Opposition LK Advani and BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu to show how the machines could be tampered with.
Advani, the book says, then issued a statement expressing doubts about the reliability of the EVMs and even suggested a return to the paper ballot if the doubts could not be resolved.
Saigal says that other political leaders also "took up the cudgels with renewed vigour demanding a thorough probe into the entire election process in their states in which they had unexpectedly been defeated".