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'Means to deter an elector': EC pulls up Kharge over turnout data charge

On May 7, Kharge wrote to the leaders of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) bloc regarding the alleged discrepancies in the voting data

Mallikarjun Kharge,Kharge,Mallikarjun

Kharge also alleged that prime minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party are

Raghav Aggarwal New Delhi
The Election Commission on Friday, in a strongly worded reply, pulled up Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge over his allegations of discrepancies and delays in releasing voter turnout data, calling it a "deliberate attempt to spread confusion."

In its reply, the Election Commission (EC) stated, "Utterances from the president of a national political party attacking the very credibility of the electoral steps and processes can have a negative impact on voter participation and can be seen as a means to deter an elector from exercising their franchise and/or demoralising the huge number of election staff and machinery, which is mainly drawn from the respective state governments."

On May 7, Kharge wrote to the leaders of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) bloc regarding the alleged discrepancies in the voting data. He urged the INDIA bloc leaders to raise their voices against voting data discrepancies, as "our only objective is to protect the culture of a vibrant democracy and the Constitution."

Kharge also alleged that prime minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party are "visibly flustered" and "frustrated" by the voting trends and their receding electoral fortunes in the first two phases.

"In this context, I would urge all of you that we must collectively, unitedly, and unequivocally raise our voice against such discrepancies, for our only objective is to protect the culture of a vibrant democracy and the Constitution. Let us ensure the independence of the Election Commission of India and make it accountable," the letter read.


In a post on the social media platform X, Kharge wrote, "On April 30, 2024, the Election Commission released the final voter turnout data for the first two phases of elections for the 2024 Lok Sabha. The data was released 11 days after the first phase of polling (April 19, 2024) and four days after the second phase (April 26, 2024). In this regard, our first question for the Election Commission is: Why did the commission delay the release of voter turnout data? On earlier occasions, the commission has published voter turnout data within 24 hours of polling. What has changed this time? Why has the commission failed to issue any clarification to justify the delay, despite being repeatedly questioned by political parties as well as political activists?"

"We ask the commission: For the first phase, why is there a nearly 5.5 per cent increase in the final voter turnout from the date of conclusion of voting (at 7 p.m. on April 19, 2024) to the delayed release of voter turnout data (on April 30, 2024)? For the second phase, there is a near increase of more than 5.74 per cent in the final voter turnout from the date of conclusion of voting (at 7 p.m. on April 26, 2024) to the delayed release of data (on April 30, 2024)?" he added.

Kharge also noted that aside from the delay, the voter turnout data released by the Election Commission of India "does not mention crucial yet related figures" such as votes polled in each parliamentary constituency and the respective assembly constituencies.

In response, the commission refuted any delay in providing turnout data and highlighted that the updated turnout data is always higher than on polling day. The commission provided a matrix from the 2019 general election onwards.

The commission also mentioned that it finds a "pattern" in a series of past and present irresponsible statements from Congress, calling it "disconcerting." The commission asserted that with all facts in place, the Congress president is attempting to push a "biased narrative."

"Therefore, to uphold the integrity of the election process, in the face of aggression on the vitals of live conduct of elections coming from your statements, the commission categorically rejects your insinuations/allegations and advises you to exercise caution and refrain from making such statements," the reply read.

Later in the day, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh took to social media platform X and said that the reply was "beyond description".

"The EC is a Constitutional body entrusted with the responsibility of being an impartial body that ensures, and is seen to ensure, a level-playing field to all political parties," the post said.

"Both the content and intent of the letter will be a permanent blot on the reputation of an institution that can boast of luminaries like Sukumar Sen, TN Seshan, JM Lyngdoh and others."

In the evening, a delegation of INDIA leaders met the ECI to discuss the letter as well as the reply. After the meeting, Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that if the turnout data was released on time. There would not have been any speculation.

He also said that 1,520 complaints have been filed against the Prime Minister and the Home Minister with the ECI.

"No action has been taken...We are not told what is the response, what is the action being taken, or why there is a delay...," he said.

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First Published: May 10 2024 | 4:23 PM IST

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