What exactly did ECI say in its response to Kharge's letter to INDIA allies?

In his letter, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge had raised questions about discrepancies in voting data

Voters during the third phase of the Lok Sabha elections, in Guwahati on 7 May (photo: PTI)
Voters during the third phase of the Lok Sabha elections, in Guwahati on 7 May (photo: PTI)

NH Political Bureau

Three days after Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge wrote a letter to INDIA bloc partners highlighting “discrepancies in voting data released by the Election Commission of India (ECI) and the non-publication of registered voters' lists”, the poll body rejected all the allegations, saying attacking the very credibility of the electoral steps and processes could have a "negative impact" on voter participation.

In its 21-page letter, the ECI said Kharge's letter could be seen as a means to deter an elector from exercising their franchise. The ECI also advised the Congress president to exercise caution and refrain from making such statements.

Political watchers say it is unusual for the ECI to intervene in a communication not intended for it, particularly during elections.

"You have, however, omitted to take note of the fact that data of deployment, utilization of EVM and the voter turnout, by design, is a stack which is added up from below, i.e. polling station wise. Therefore, various forms designed under the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, in particular Form 17 C, detail the votes polled and exact number identifying each EVM used and a copy of the same is made available to each of the authorized polling agents," the ECI said.

The ECI found it “surprising” that Kharge chose to insinuate whether “there is an issue with the EVM”.

"A trend of irresponsible statements attacking or attempting to degrade the credibility of the elections in terms of men and material by a National Political Party is disconcerting," it said.

The commission also reminded the Congress chief that the basic building block of the data and the numbers are in the categorical possession of the party through its field functionaries and candidates.

"The bonafide of any suspicion raised by you, should necessarily flow from data analytics that you may have undertaken using the available polling station data in your possession. In your statement, no such detail is available. Record also does not reflect that the candidate fielded by INC and/or their authorised agents, raised these concerns at close of poll…"

"The commission has found your communication placed in public domain in the middle of the ongoing election process as highly undesirable and one that appears designed to create confusion/misdirection/ impediment to the conduct of smooth, free and fair elections which is the mandate of ECI…" the poll body said.

In his public communication to the INDIA allies, Khrage on Tuesday posed six queries, to which the ECI provided individual responses. Expressing concern, Kharge highlighted the postponement in releasing the final voting percentages for the initial and subsequent phases, questioning the accuracy of the data. Additionally, he referred to media accounts, labelling it as "deeply troubling" that the final registered voters' list wasn't disclosed from the third phase onwards.

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