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Elon Musk’s statement on EVM ignited a Political Row in India

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One of the World’s richest person and Tesla’s Chief Elon Musk waded into a controversy over the security of India’s electronic voting machines (EVMs)—a hot-button political issue in the country—after he suggested the machines are susceptible to hacking, the latest in a long line of controversies involving the billionaire and foreign officials.

Musk’s remarks came in response to reports that the election commission of Puerto Rico was reviewing its contract with a USA-based electronic voting company after the emergence of discrepancies in the voting process in the island territory.

The controversy surrounding Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s comments on electronic voting machines (EVMs), unrelated to India, extended into a second day as BJP leader Rajeev Chandrasekhar this time questioned the security of Tesla cars. 

Former Union minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar has pushed back against billionare tech magnate Elon Musk’s comments on electronic voting machines (EVMs), labelling them as a “huge sweeping generalisation” without basis.

Elon Musk, in a post on X, had raised concerns about electronic voting machines, suggesting they should be eliminated due to the potential risk of being hacked by humans or AI, even if the risk is minimal.

Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who served as Minister of State for the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology in Modi Cabinet 2.0, countered Musk’s view, stating it might apply to the US and other regions where standard computing platforms are used to build “Internet-connected voting machines.”

However, Chandrasekhar asserted that this is not the case in India, where EVMs are custom-designed, secure, and isolated from any network or media.

“This is a huge sweeping generalization statement that implies no one can build secure digital hardware. Wrong. @elonmusk’s view may apply to US n other places – where they use regular compute platforms to build Internet connected Voting machines. But Indian EVMs are custom designed, secure and isolated from any network or media – No connectivity, no bluetooth, wifi, Internet. ie there is no way in. Factory programmed controllers that cannot be reprogrammed (sic),” Chandrasekhar tweeted.

The entrepreneur-turned-politician also offered to give a tutorial to the SpaceX boss demonstrating the robustness of EVMs designed in India.

“Electronic voting machines can be architected and built right as India has done. We wud be happy to run a tutorial Elon,” he said.

However, Elon replied that “Anything can be hacked”

To which, Rajeev Chandrasekhar replied that

Technically ur right – anything is possible E.g..wth quantum compute, i can decrypt any level of encryption, with lab level tech n plenty of resources, i can hack any digital hardware/system incldng flight controls of a glass cockpit of a jet etc etc. But thats a different type of a conversatn from EVMs being secure n reliable vis a vis paper voting. And we can agree to disagree.

Elon Musk’s statement re-ignited EVM debate in India

The allegations of ‘unlocking’ of electronic voting machine (EVM) in the Mumbai North West Lok Sabha seat during the recently-concluded Lok Sabha Elections has sparked a political row. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi who said EVM’s are currently ‘blackbox’ has raised questions about transparency in the electoral process even as the Election Commission rejected the tampering claim.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said serious concerns are being raised about transparency in the country’s electoral process. “When democratic institutions are captured, the only safeguard lies in electoral processes that are transparent to the public. EVM is currently a black box. EC must either ensure complete transparency of the machines and processes, or abolish them..,” Gandhi said in a post on X.

Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Aaditya Thackeray demanded that the poll panel should release the CCTV footage related to the controversy during vote counting. “We have always had suspicions about this regime tampering with EVMs. Even Elon Musk has expressed his views, claiming everything can be hacked. Despite several requests, the Election Commission does not have the courage to release the CCTV footage of the counting day that would support our claims,” Thackeray said.

Thackeray was referring to Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk pitching for eliminating EVMs. In a post on X, Elon Musk had said, “We should eliminate electronic voting machines. The risk of being hacked by humans or AI, while small, is still too high.”

Former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Akhilesh Yadav demanded that all future elections should be conducted through ballot papers.

“’Technology’ is meant to solve problems, if it becomes the cause of problems then its use should be stopped. Today, when fears of EVM tampering are being expressed in many elections of the world and the world’s renowned technology experts are openly writing about the danger of EVM tampering, then what is the reason behind the insistence on using EVM, the BJP should clarify this. We reiterate our demand that all future elections be conducted using ballot papers,” Akhilesh Yadav posted on X in Hindi.

BJP and Election Commission Rubbished EVM hacking allegations

BJP spokesperson Shehzad Poonawalla accused Rahul Gandhi of using a half-baked story to peddle his lies and fakery. ” The EC came out and clarified that no OTP is required for ‘unlocking’… EVMs are stand-alone machines. They are like calculators. There’s no network connectivity, so there’s no question of it being hacked,” Poonawalla told news agency ANI.

3.6 Crore Indians visited in a single day choosing us as India’s undisputed platform for General Election Results.

Vandana Suryavanshi, the returning officer of the seat, has rubbished the allegations. At a press conference on June 16, she said notices had been issued to Mid-Day and Marathi daily Lokmat for publishing ‘false’ news. She said that the EVM is a standalone system, not programmable and has no wireless communication capabilities.

During the recently concluded marathon Lok Sabha election, the Opposition had alleged that there was a possibility of the ruling BJP tampering with electronic voting machines to turn poll outcomes in their favour. In response, Chief Election Commissioner Rajeev Kumar assured that EVMs are “100% safe”.

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