Votes being counted from an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) at a counting station in Mumbai recently. Image Credit: AFP

New Delhi: In response to Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk's claims about the possibility of hacking electronic voting machines (EVMs), India's BJP leader and former Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, stated that the billionaire CEO was factually incorrect.

Speaking to ANI, Chandrasekhar said, "I think he is factually incorrect in saying that anything can be hacked. A calculator or toaster cannot be hacked. Therefore, there is a limit to where this paradigm of hacking can extend. Elon Musk does not understand what the Indian EVM is. Indian EVMs do not lend themselves to being hacked because they are very limited intelligence devices."

"This is not so much about an argument as it is about clarifying to someone who is sitting in the US and does not know what the Indian EVM is. I think Elon Musk has not understood what an Indian EVM is," he said.

Musk had advised against using electronic voting machines and said that these machines should be eliminated. The remarks of the Tesla CEO came amid a growing debate on the security of EVMs around the world, which gained momentum particularly after allegations of irregularities in the recent primary elections in Puerto Rico. In his post on X, Musk stated, "We should eliminate electronic voting machines. The risk of being hacked by humans or AI, while small, is still too high."

In response, Chandrasekhar, the former Union Information and Broadcasting Minister, had on Sunday taken to X to state that India "would be happy to run a tutorial" on the topic. "This is a huge, sweeping generalization that implies no one can build secure digital hardware. Wrong. @elonmusk's view may apply to the US and other places where they use regular compute platforms to build internet-connected voting machines," Chandrasekhar said in the post.

Chandrasekhar added, "He made this very sweeping comment that all EVMs can be hacked. Of course, I am not one to argue with someone like Elon Musk, but the generalization was too sweeping to be left unchallenged. Therefore, I pointed out that Indian EVMs are very different from what the Americans know of EVMs because the US and Western world use connected devices. They are using traditional devices connected to the internet as EVMs."

Elaborating on his reply to Musk, Chandrasekhar said, "I pointed out that Indian EVMs are architected and designed to be safe and secure because if there is no connectivity with Wi-Fi, 5G, or the internet in general, then there will be no way to hack the EVM."

The BJP leader said that while everything Musk said is technically feasible, the EVMs in India are very secure, mainly because they are completely isolated from connectivity and a large number of these machines are kept under physical security. Chandrasekhar reiterated that he is happy to give a tutorial on what the Indian EVM looks like and why it is most secure and certainly not hackable.

Attacking the Congress party, he said the Congress leaders who have joined the debate are pleased with the narrative that the EVM can be hacked. "They don't want to understand the underlying logic and technology. About 80-90 percent of people, including Rahul Gandhi and his cronies who are jumping into this debate, have no sense of what an EVM as a system is or what Elon Musk is talking about," Chandrasekhar said.

Rahul Gandhi, in his post on X, said, "EVMs in India are a 'black box,' and nobody is allowed to scrutinize them. Serious concerns are being raised about transparency in our electoral process. Democracy ends up becoming a sham and prone to fraud when institutions lack accountability."