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  India   Politics  10 May 2024  EC rebukes Kharge on turnout data charges

EC rebukes Kharge on turnout data charges

THE ASIAN AGE. | VINEETA PANDEY
Published : May 10, 2024, 11:36 pm IST
Updated : May 10, 2024, 11:36 pm IST

The ECI dismissed charges of mismanagement and delay in releasing turnout data

Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge. (PTI)
 Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge. (PTI)

New Delhi: The Election Commission of India (ECI) rebuked Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge for alleging delay in voter turnout data, accusing him of obstructing the ongoing Lok Sabha election. Taking note of Kharge’s letter to leaders of the I.N.D.I.A. bloc on voter turnout data and his post on X, the ECI deemed his comments "highly undesirable". Terming Kharge’s allegations as baseless, the ECI stated that such statements in the midst of ongoing polls are designed to create confusion, misdirection, and impediments in the conduct of free and fair elections.

However, The Congress, however, stood by its allegations, asserting that the ECI has not provided any proper or official clarification on the delay or the reported variance in the voter data. On Friday, as part of a multiparty delegation, the Congress visited the ECI with complaints over the Prime Minister’s alleged "hate and divisive" speeches. Its complaint also addressed issues related to voter turnout data.

The ECI dismissed charges of mismanagement and delay in releasing turnout data, stating that Kharge’s allegations are unwarranted and without factual basis, reflecting a biased and deliberate attempt to spread confusion. The ECI particularly condemned Kharge’s statement, "Could this be an attempt to doctor the final results?" as it could create an anarchic situation, fostering doubts and disharmony.

While criticising the ECI for the delay in releasing the final poll percentage, Kharge, in a letter to leaders of I.N.D.I.A. bloc parties, questioned whether the delay was an attempt to manipulate the final results. In his post on X, Kharge also highlighted discrepancies in voting turnout data released by the ECI and the non-publication of registered voters.

The Congress stated in a complaint to the ECI on Friday: “The Commission has not mentioned crucial yet related figures, such as the votes polled in each Parliamentary Constituency and in the respective Assembly Constituencies. This raises additional issues – a) If the voter turnout data was published within 24 hours of voting along with the crucial figures, then we would have known if the increase (of ~5%) had been witnessed across constituencies? Or only in constituencies where the ruling regime had not performed well in the 2019 elections? (b) As per the Commission, the Polling Agents of the Candidates have the exact voter turnout data of each polling station. It means that the Commission also has the requisite data of the voter turnout for each polling station; now our question to them is what exactly is precluding the Commission from publishing the same for the general public?”

The Congress further urged the Commission to alleviate doubts raised in the public domain by not only releasing the data per Parliamentary Constituency but also by providing the voter turnout data for each polling station.

In a strongly worded letter to Kharge, the ECI expressed concern that such utterances from the president of a national political party attacking the credibility of the electoral steps and processes could have a negative impact on voter participation and could be seen as a means to deter an elector from exercising their franchise, apart from demoralizing the election staff and machinery.

“While the Commission outrightly rejects the allegation of the so-called 'glaring mismanagement’, a point-wise response to your concerns on the subject is still provided,” the ECI said in its letter. It further emphasized that since Kharge is a “senior parliamentarian, a very seasoned politician, with experience of 52 years in electoral politics and electoral processes, and as the head of a prominent National Political Party,” he must be aware that the ECI follows the most transparent process of preparation of electoral rolls and a well-designed and well-tested participation of the political parties/candidates at every stage of the process. “All political parties know the number of electors at every stage of the election process,” it added.

The ECI described his statements as an "aggression on vitals of live election operations", adding that the ECI is determined "to act against developments which have a direct impact on the delivery of its core mandate."

Categorically rejecting Kharge’s contentions, the ECI called them insinuations and innuendos and asserted that there is no lapse or deviation in the collection and dissemination of voter turnout data and refuted any delay in providing turnout data. It pointed out that the updated 'turnout data’ has always been higher than the poll day data and provided a factual matrix from the 2019 general election onwards. The Commission stated that it finds a ‘pattern’ in a series of past and present irresponsible statements from the Congress and called it ‘disconcerting’, while adding that the Congress President is attempting to push a biased narrative.

The ECI clarified that none of the Congress field functionaries or candidates raised any concerns at the close of the poll or during scrutiny, and no repoll on these counts were sought or ordered. “Thus, your statements cross the realm of ill-founded apprehensions or anxiousness of the campaign or political space and enter into the realm of specific and ascribable knowledge of facts and thus appear devoid of bonafide,” the ECI stated.

The ECI added that while it respects his entitlement to ask questions about all aspects of the conduct of the election, it also takes in its stride all criticism that comes its way, much of which may be or have been without any basis.

Tags: congress leader mallikarjun kharge, 2024 lok sabha elections, india alliance
Location: India, Delhi