With the Lok Sabha election 2019 round the corner, the claims of a US-based man who arranged an ‘EVM hackathon’ on Monday to “prove” that the electronic voting machines (EVMs) can be hacked have evoked strong reactions from different parties over the contentions put forward.

Soon after the man, identified as Syed Shuja, addressed a press conference in London via Skype, the Election Commission of India (ECI) vehemently denied the claims of any possibility of tampering with the EVMs.

Rubbishing his claims, a senior EC official said on Monday evening, “ECI firmly stands by the empirical facts about foolproof nature of the ECI EVMs deployed in elections in India. Whereas ECI has been wary of becoming a party to this motivated slugfest, ECI maintains that its EVMs are foolproof.”

The Election Body said it was examining legal action against those trying to engage EC into “this motivated slugfest” adding that the EVMs were manufactured at the Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and the Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) under very strict supervisory and security conditions.

There were rigorous Standard Operating Procedures meticulously observed at all stages under the supervision of a Committee of eminent technical experts constituted way back in 2010, the commission said.

Syed Shuja had claimed that the BJP won 280-plus seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections as the EVMs were rigged in its favour. In a startling claim, he alleged that senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde, who died in a car crash on June 3 2014, a few days after joining Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet, was killed because he had learnt about the manipulation and was about to “expose” the EVM rigging.

Following this claim, Dhananjay Munde, a member of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and nephew of Gopinath Munde, has demanded a probe into the death of his uncle.

“A cyber expert has made a sensational claim that former Union Minister Late Gopinathrao Munde saheb was murdered. This claim needs immediate attention and investigation from RAW/Supreme Court, as it is directly linked to the death of mass leader. Everybody who followed Munde saheb’s leadership and loved him had raised questions about his death. After today’s revelation, the doubt has been addressed. If the claim of  EVM Hacking is true, then it also violate the norms of the biggest democracy of the world,” said Dhananjay, demanding that either the R&AW or a Supreme Court judge should conduct the probe.

Meanwhile, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad questioned the presence of senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal at the ‘EVM hackathon’. Prasad asked, “What was Mr Kapil Sibal doing there? In what capacity was he present there? I believe he was monitoring the situation on behalf of Congress party. Is the Congress sponsored event designed to insult the popular mandate of 2014?”

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said, “If someone has raised a question then it must be thought that what is the reason that a developed country like Japan is not using EVMs? It is not a question of a political party it’s a question of trust in democracy. Election Commission and the government should make a decision.”

BSP supremo Mayawati said, “Keeping democracy’s larger interest in view, it is essential to look into the EVM matter so that it gets resolved soon. It is possible to validate ballot paper but it’s not the case with the EVM. We demand that the EC hold 2019 general election using ballot paper taking this (claim) into cognizance.”

G Kishan Reddy, the state Bharatiya Janata Party president of Telangana, said on Tuesday, “Man named Syed Shuja made allegations against me in London yesterday in front of Congress’ Kapil Sibal that my friends and I killed 11 people in Hyderabad. It was your (Congress) government then. Your officers were working at that time. How could I kill 11 people over tampering issue?”

“I don’t have a criminal record and I demand a high-level inquiry. If I could tamper with EVM I would’ve been Telangana CM. How did Congress win MP, Chhattisgarh, and Rajasthan if EVMs were tampered with? Congress leaders committed murders in Telangana and Andhra. I’m not like them,” said Reddy in response to Shuja’s claim that 11 members of this team were killed in Hyderabad when they went to meet a “BJP leader” to tell him that EVMs could be rigged.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has said the Opposition would take up the issue with the Election Commission given Shuja’s claims that EVMs could be hacked.

“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.

Interestingly, National Conference chairman Farooq Abdullah had, during the mega anti-BJP rally in Kolkata on Saturday, called the EVM the “chor machine” and demanded that the ballot paper system is brought back.