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INDIA Bloc Leaders Meet Election Commission Over Voter Turnout Data, Alleged Model Code Violations

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NEW DELHI, May 10: A delegation of opposition party leaders on Friday met the top brass of Election Commission and raised its concerns over the delay in releasing voter turnout figures for the first two phases, and urged them to take action on complaints of model code violations by ruling BJP leaders during the ongoing polls.

Samajwadi Party leader Javed Ali, meanwhile, raised the issue of a “red card” being issued by the Uttar Pradesh Police to people in the state, which they said is stopping many from exercising their franchise.

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The delegation included Congress leaders Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Salman Khurshid, TMC’s Derek O’Brien, DMK’s TR Baalu, JMM’s Mahua Majhi, CPI’s Binoy Viswam, and Ali among others.

“We have a very distinguished gathering of INDIA alliance. Each party across India is represented. We spent 45 minute to an hour,” Singhvi said briefing the media after the meeting.

“Issue number one was one of great trust deficit, question mark and a feeling of alarm and distress that 11 complaints by Congress alone, and complaints by all parties put together against the Prime Minister and Home Minister, starting from early April, have not been addressed,” Singhvi said.

“No action has been taken. Look at the oddity – you have sent notices after a long gap and not to the offenders. For the first time in the history of the Election Commission you have sent notices to the party presidents,” Singhvi said, referring to its letter to BJP president JP Nadda over complaints against Modi’s Banswara speech.

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He said they have not been informed about the response to the EC notice, or about the action being taken. “Why there is a delay?”

“This is an irreversible window, it touched upon level playing field, it touches upon elections, it touched upon democracy and basic structure. Custodian of all these constitutional values is the Election Commission. If they don’t act promptly, it will be a complete abdication of Constitutional duty,” Singhvi said.

The Congress leader also hinted that the opposition parties may approach the Supreme Court with the issue.

“It is no joy for us to go to the Supreme Court and get directions saying why don’t you decide. This is not the way a Constitutional functionary should function. We are distressed and there is no satisfactory answer why these people are not touched,” he said.

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Singhvi said the second issue raised was the “non-publication or publication with extreme delay of the voter turnout percentages.”

“We made three quick points – the difference of voter percentage increase is 5.74 per cent or 5.5 per cent. The comparable figure in the 2019 election the first three phases was two per cent, one per cent, two and half per cent, this time it is double,” he said.

“We are not given a stamp of approval by the published figures of the EC. We are told to calculate on our own because there is real time data available with the candidate or the voting app. That maybe so, but the stamp of approval of a published absolute figure and a percentage figure by the EC carries its own constitutional weight, we have asked for that,” he said.

Amid the opposition’s allegations, the Election Commission had asserted last week that booth-wise data of the “actual number of votes polled” is available with the candidates soon after the voting ends.

They said copies of Form 17C, which contains the number of voter turnout, duly signed by the presiding officer and all present polling agents are shared with all present polling agents.

Singhvi added that the questions are avoidable if the EC acts promptly.

“You have to avoid this delay and this huge discrepancy in figures because it raises unnecessary question marks. Did this increase in vote suddenly occur only in those areas where the ruling party had done badly last time, did it occur across all constituencies… these are all avoidable questions because transparency and promptitude by EC will solve them immediately,” he said.

Ali meanwhile raised the issue of Uttar Pradesh police issuing “red cards” to a number of individuals banning them from going near polling booths.

“We have raised this issue in many meetings with the poll panel… in Uttar Pradesh, police is issuing red card to some people and warns them not to come near the booth. You will be surprised to know in one Lok Sabha constituency the red card numbers are ranging from 10,000 to 60,000-70,000,” he said.

Ali said EC took cognizance and has assured them that no such card will be issued in future. “They accepted this so called red card is unconstitutional.”

The meeting came after Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge wrote to leaders of various opposition parties on the issue of alleged “discrepancies” in the voting data released by the Election Commission (EC).

In an unusual move, the EC on Friday responded to Kharge’s letter to fellow INDIA bloc leaders that was also posted on X, and rejected his allegations that the EC had delayed releasing final voter turnout numbers for the first two phases of the Lok Sabha elections.

In a strongly worded letter, the EC said the utterances from president of a national political party is attacking the very credibility of the electoral steps and processes, and can have a negative impact on voter participation. (PTI)

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