INDIA bloc leaders meet ECI over voter turnout data, alleged MCC violations

The leaders raised concerns over the delay in releasing voter turnout figures for the first two phases of the Lok Sabha elections

INDIA bloc leaders outside the ECI office in Delhi (photo: PTI)
INDIA bloc leaders outside the ECI office in Delhi (photo: PTI)


A delegation of opposition party leaders on Friday met senior officials of the Election Commission of India and raised concerns over the delay in releasing voter turnout figures for the first two phases of the ongoing Lok Sabha elections, and urged the ECI to take action on complaints of model code of conduct (MCC) violations by ruling BJP leaders during the polls.

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

The delegation included Congress leaders Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Salman Khurshid, the Trinamool Congress' Derek O'Brien, DMK's T.R. Baalu, JMM's Mahua Majhi, CPI's Binoy Viswam, and Javed Ali among others.

"We have a very distinguished gathering of the INDIA alliance. Each party across India is represented. We spent 45 minutes to an hour," Singhvi told 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.

"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 party presidents," Singhvi said, referring to the ECI letter to BJP president J.P. Nadda over complaints against Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Banswara speech.

Singhvi said they have not been informed about the response to the ECI notice, or about the action being taken. "Why is there 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," he said.

The Congress leader also hinted that the opposition parties may approach the Supreme Court with the issue. "It gives us no joy 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.

Singhvi said the second issue raised was the "non-publication or publication with extreme delay" of voter turnout percentages during the first two phases of the polls.

"We made three quick points — the difference in voter percentage increase is 5.74 per cent or 5.5 per cent. The comparable figure in the 2019 election in the first three phases was two per cent, one per cent, 2.5 per cent, this time it is double," he said.

"We are not given a stamp of approval by the published figures of the ECI. We are told to calculate on our own because there is real time data available with the candidate or the voting app. That may be 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.".

Amid the opposition's allegations, the ECI 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 voter turnout figures, duly signed by the presiding officer and all present polling agents, are shared with all polling agents.

Singhvi added that the questions are avoidable if the ECI acts promptly. "You have to avoid this delay and this huge discrepancy in figures because it raises unnecessary question marks. Did this increase in votes suddenly occur only in those areas where the ruling party did badly last time, did it occur across all constituencies? These are all avoidable questions because transparency and promptitude by ECI will solve them immediately."

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 cards 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 the ECI 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 ECI.

In an unusual move, the ECI 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 the president of a national political party is attacking the very credibility of the electoral process, and can have a negative impact on voter participation.

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