Can BJP’s office bearers run the affairs of Bharat Electronics Ltd. A CPSE engaged in the supply of EVMs for elections?

Can BJP’s office bearers run the affairs of Bharat Electronics ltd. (BEL), a CPSE engaged in the supply of EVMs for elections? Has the Election Commission of India (ECI) become a mute spectator to tilting the level-playing ground in favour of BJP?

Shri Rajiv Kumar
Chief Election Commissioner
Election Commission of India (ECI)

Shri A C Pandey
Election Commissioner
Election Commission of India (ECI)

Shri Arun Goel
Election Commissioner
Election Commission of India (ECI)

Dear S/Shri Rajiv Kumar/ Pandey/ Goel,

Earlier, I had brought to your attention how at least four BJP’s nominees have been nominated to be “independent” Directors on the Board of Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) which is engaged in highly sensitive work of developing the software for Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) for elections (

This implies that the BJP, as a political party has an important role in running the affairs of the BEL, which leads one to the inevitable inference that the BJP continues to supervise the functioning of the BEL, a CPSE which is closely engaged in the manufacture and supply of the EVMs including development of the  “secret” encrypted source code which is embedded in the chips that form the core of the EVMs. 

Despite my bringing this disturbing fact to ECI’s attention quite some time ago, I find that the ECI, for reasons best known to it, has deliberately chosen not to act, suggesting that the Commission remains unconcerned about the level playing ground in elections being brazenly tilted in favour of the ruling BJP!

I was trying to scan the website of the BEL today ( and, to my anguish, I found that the background of one of the “Independent” Directors, Shri Mansukhbhai Shamjibhai Khachariya, is explicitly shown as 

Shri. Mansukhbhai Shamjibhai Khachariya, aged 61 years, is a Science Graduate and is a business entrepreneur in Rajkot, Gujarat. He is presently holding the post of BJP Rajkot District President. He is also a Director on the Board of Classic Cotton Pvt. Ltd, Rajkot

While I have no intention to question the credentials of Shri Khanchariya in any manner, does not the Commission find it highly objectionable for an important office bearer of the BJP to be nominated to the BEL’s Board as an ‘independent ‘ Director? The Companies Act mandates that an independent Director should play a pivotal role in managing the affairs of the company. In the instant case, this particular company is closely engaged in the manufacture and supply of EVMs, especially at a time when there is growing criticism against EVM technology and its vulnerability to manipulation. 

It is ironic that, instead of agreeing to have a relook at the questions raised against the EVMs, the ECI has gone to the other extreme of obstinately defending it, literally deifying it, closing its eyes to the harsh reality that many countries have stopped using the EVMs and there have been instances of malfunctioning of the EVMs in our instance. The Commission has compounded the public concern by refusing to cross-verify the EVM count of votes vis-a-vis the paper ballots. The Commission, by its own admission, is using the EVMs without totalisers, which precludes the mixing of ballots among different booths in a constituency, violating the mandatory requirement of secrecy of booth-level voting. 

In addition to Shri Khanchariya, there are at least three other “independent” Directors of BEL who have an affiliation with the BJP. 

Clearly, there is a conflict of interest in BEL having persons affiliated with the BJP as its independent Directors, considering that the BEL’s independence as a CPSE is of critical importance for it to be entrusted with the manufacture and supply of EVMs. 

This raises concerns on several fronts:

  1. The fact that BEL’s website proudly displays Shri Khanchariya’s background as a member of the BJP suggests the blurring of the dividing line between the ruling political executive and the functioning of the BEL, which is expected under Article 12 of the Constitution to act as “an arm” of the State and play a critical role in ensuring that the EVMs supplied by it are not vulnerable to manipulation.
  2. The fact that the BEL, fully endorsed by the Commission, has refused to subject its source code to an open independent audit reinforces the public’s concerns about the way EVMs are used in our country and their vulnerability to manipulation.
  3. What disturbs me all the more is that the Commission, apparently not fully realising its role as a Constitutional authority and as the custodian for conducting elections in a free and fair manner, should close its eyes to this and openly become a party to the ruling political executive inducting four of its representatives to run the affairs of the BEL. Does it not imply that the ECI no longer considers itself to be an independent Constitutional authority?
  4. Despite the above position w.r.t BEL’s Board being brought to the notice of the Commission more than a year ago, the Commission has chosen to remain a party to such a brazen conflict of interest, knowing well that it would erode the credibility of the presently deployed EVM machines and the credibility of the Commission itself

If the Commission has any respect for its own role under Article 324 and is truly concerned about maintaining the integrity of the electoral processes, it should come clean on this even at this belated hour, direct the concerned authorities to revoke the Directorship of party-affiliated persons from BEL’s Board and place the details of the action taken by it in the public domain for the people of this country to see. The Commission has ample authority under Article 324 of the Constitution to intervene in such a matter. The apex court made the following observation on 2-5-2002 in WP(C) 294/2001 [Civil Appeal 7178/2001] (Association for Democratic Reforms vs Union of India & Others):

where such law is silent, Article 324 is a reservoir of power to act for the avowed purpose of, not divorced from, pushing forward a free and fair election with expedition…”

If the Commission fails to invoke its authority in such a vital matter, its credibility, which has already come under intense public scrutiny, will further erode, a situation that does not augur well for the future of our democracy.

I sincerely hope that the Commission will not let down the nation at least in this case!


Yours sincerely,

E A S Sarma
Former Secretary to the Government of India

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