Doubts over Delhi polls

Kashmir Times. Dated: 2/11/2020 12:41:37 AM

Delayed statistics, sudden jump in polling percentage engender doubts about credibility of election process

After fears of EVM tampering and the delayed declaration of polling data in Delhi elections were expressed by the Aam Aadmi Party, the assurances of the Election Commission of India are insufficient. In the face of accusations that some of the EVMs were still being held by the officials, the Election Commission denied any wrongdoing. An official of the ECI clarified that all EVMs that were used for the polls have been accounted for and that they have been stored safely with police protection in centres. This does not put to rest the speculations that have arisen in view of the delay in announcing the total vote count. It took a day for the ECI to state that there was a late surge in the voting and the final turnout was 61 percent. To explain the gap between the relatively low polling till 3.00 PM, stuck at about 30 percent, he mentioned that in some polling booths, the polling went on till 8.00 PM. It would be unusual for a uniform polling pattern of low polling during the day turning into a brisk affair late evening across thousands of booths in New Delhi. Questions may also be asked as to why booths were open till that late when the usual norm is to shut down the booths by around 5.00 in the evening. Usual trends in polling across India for decades have revealed that it is often the first half of the day when majority votes are polled. One AAP minister has also pointed out that based on his own data, based on compilation of form 17c for 143 booths, a total of 98012 out of 144777 votes were polled in his constituency in Shakurbasti. This he added worked out to be 67.7% votes but that the EC website showed only 49.19% polling only after 22 hours. The data being released by the EC is not only delayed but also reveals an odd trend in polling. The ECI's assurances are also not satisfactory in view of the unsettled allegations in the past, revealing that the Delhi election case is not quite an aberration.
Serious apprehensions have earlier been raised by many quarters about the bias of the Election Commission and about discrepancy in figures. These doubts may be misplaced. But the problem is that the ECI has done little to allay such doubts in the past. The allegations, instead, have been brushed under the carpet. They are too glaring to be ignored. Six months after the Lok Sabha polls of 2019, two NGOs moved the Supreme Court seeking a probe into alleged discrepancies between voter turnout and the number of votes counted in 347 constituencies during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The Supreme Court has listed the matter for some time later this month, further delaying a serious matter by another two months. The petition was filed on grounds that there were serious discrepancies between the number of voters in different constituencies and the number of votes counted. It maintains that discrepancies were found in 347 seats, the discrepancies ranging from 1 vote to 1,01,323 votes, which is equal to 10.49 percent of the total votes. The plea further said there were six seats where the discrepancy in votes was higher than the winning margin. In light of such allegations, the doubts raised about the Delhi vote count need to be taken more seriously. It is imperative that poll results are accurate and the discrepancies in the polls cannot be set aside without a satisfactory resolution. One glaring fact is that the EC has not laid down any prescribed system for compiling, reconciliation and publishing of poll data; and no particular methodology that is followed has been put in the public domain. While there is need for the courts to ensure a speedy trial in such serious contentions about the 2019 parliamentary polls, the ECI must immediately act in the Delhi election case and make its methodology of vote vaunting and voter count transparent in order to uphold and preserve the sanctity of elections.



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