ECI’s outright denial not enough to convince EVM sceptics

Opposition parties must launch a coordinated nationwide movement to apprise the country of the anomalies

ECI’s outright denial not enough to convince EVM sceptics

Tathagata Bhattacharya

Coming close on the heels of the disastrous performance of the Congress in the Lok Sabha polls in Karnataka, the grand old party has sprung a surprise by winning the highest number of seats in the civic body polls across the state, triggering fresh claims from some party leaders that something went amiss with the EVMs in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

While the Congress bagged 509 of the total 1,221 wards in 56 urban local bodies (ULB) for which results were declared, the BJP got 366 wards, the state election commission said. The JD(S), which fought the polls alone, won 174 wards. Independent candidates emerged victorious in 160 wards, the BSP got 3, CPI(M) 2 and other parties secured 7.

In the 2018 Assembly polls, the BJP had emerged as the single largest party with 104 seats in the 224-member Assembly. But the Congress and the JD(S), with 80 and 37 seats respectively, joined hands in a post-poll arrangement to form the government. However, it needs to be remembered that the Congress’ vote share at 38.14 per cent was higher than that of the BJP at 36.34 per cent. The JD(S)’s vote share stood at 18.3 per cent. Thus the combined vote share of the Congress and the JD(S) when it had fought each other apart from the BJP stood at 56.44 per cent.

However, in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress and JD(S) had a clear pre-poll arrangement where issues were sorted between the two over an almost-one-year period during which they ran the state government together.

Thus, it is confounding that the same electorate will snub the Congress-JD(S) alliance, give a massive mandate to the BJP in the shape of as many as 25 seats out of 28 in the Lok Sabha election, polling for which ended on April 23, and, within a month, repose back confidence in the Congress and the JD(S) by giving them control of most urban local bodies (56 per cent) while giving the BJP just about 30 per cent of the ULBs.

The Congress and JD(S), who are in alliance in running the state, had decided to contest the urban local body polls separately, thus fighting each other as well as the BJP. In spite of that, the BJP finished a distant second.

While Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president Dinesh Gundu Rao welcomed the results, saying they indicate that the party was still strong at the local level, he nonetheless expressed doubts about the EVMs used in the Lok Sabha polls. He said, "such difference in public mandate in such a short gap needs to be verified."

The role of EVMs have been criticised by many opposition leaders like Mayawati, Shatrughan Sinha and others. The latest has been NCP MP from Baramati Supriya Sule who in a veiled way said that it was necessary to convince the sceptics of the EVM’s infallibility.

Following a Quint report pointing out that the Election Commission of India (ECI) was refusing to explain the difference between votes polled and those counted, the ECI came out with a release, saying there was no wrongdoing and that such rise in numbers in some constituencies are routine. However, the same report also mentions numbers decreasing in quite a few constituencies. This is something that cannot logically happen. The ECI has not addressed this at all in its statement.

After the ECI’s statement, Newsclick published a detailed report on how out of the 120 Lok Sabha constituencies that went to polls from UP and Bihar, in as many as 119, thousands of votes in excess of ECI-generated figures were cast. The report also highlights how the same ECI gave four different figures of polling percentage for a single seat.

The report says, “Interestingly, three different documents are available for Jahanabad seat, with varying polling percentages and total number of votes polled. The document given to the Jahanabad's RJD candidate shows 51.77% polling, while the data uploaded on the website of the Bihar CEO shows there was 54% polling. On Voter Turnout app, the figure is 53.67%. While, the Form 20 of Jehanabad says that it stands at 52.02%. Such discrepancies also occurred across several other seats in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.”

Newsclick had earlier published a report that showed that the difference between the total number of votes polled and votes counted stood at a whopping 54,65,000, enough to upset equations in more than a 100 seats.

In the light of these facts; the countless videos of unescorted EVMs without paperwork doing rounds in trucks, tempos, cars around EVM strong rooms that surfaced before counting day; and no explanation except outright denial by the ECI, more than two former chief election commissioners have expressed their doubts about the transparency of the conduct of elections as well.

Opposition political parties should ideally meet, discuss this issue and should launch movements across the country to apprise the country of these happenings. And yes, they must approach the court for the ECI to explain the many anomalies. Mere denials won’t suffice.

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Published: 1 Jun 2019, 7:28 PM