INDIA bloc leaders meet EC over voter turnout data, alleged model code violations

New Delhi, May 10 (PTI) A delegation of opposition party leaders on Friday met the top brass of Election Commission to raise its concerns over poll code violations by the ruling party leaders, and also flagged concerns over delay in release of voter turnout figures for the first two phases of the polls.

At the meeting that came soon after the poll panel issued a strongly worded statement, in which it termed as “regrettable” Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge’s letter to opposition on the delay, the opposition leaders alleged that “no meaningful action” has been taken by the EC to penalise those who are guilty in the ruling party.

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

The delegation included Congress leaders Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Salman Khurshid, TMC’s Derek O’Brien, DMK’s TR Baalu, JMM’s Mahua Majhi, CPI’s Binoy Viswam, and Ali among others.

A seven-page memorandum submitted by the opposition leaders said the ongoing election has witnessed the “most egregious and blatant violations of electoral laws ever committed by those in the ruling party” adding that the violations are being made by “those occupying the highest constitutional offices.”

“Despite documented evidence being catalogued and placed before this Hon’ble Commission, no meaningful action has been taken to penalize those who are guilty in the ruling regime,” the opposition’s memorandum said, adding that it has resulted in unchecked and brazen continuation of these violations.

Briefing the media after the meeting that lasted around 45 minutes, Singhvi said there was “great trust deficit, question marks and a feeling of alarm and distress” on the poll panel not acting on opposition’s complaints of model code violations against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

He said it was for the first time that the poll panel had sent a notice to party presidents and not the offenders, adding that they were not aware of any action being taken. He was referring to EC’s letter to BJP president JP Nadda over complaints against Modi’s Banswara speech.

“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,” Singhvi said.

The Congress leader also hinted that the opposition parties may approach the Supreme Court with the issue.

“It is no joy for us 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,” he said.

Singhvi said the second issue raised was the “non-publication or publication with extreme delay of the voter turnout percentages.”

“We are not given a stamp of approval by the published figures of the EC. We are told to calculate on our own because there is real time data available with the candidate or the voting app. That maybe 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,” he said.

Amid the opposition’s allegations, the Election Commission 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 number of voter turnout, duly signed by the presiding officer and all present polling agents are shared with all present polling agents.

Sources said at the meeting, O’Brien spoke about the poll panel’s statement just ahead of the meeting, and questioned its inaction in the complaints against Modi and Shah.

He said that the Model Code of Conduct has become the “Modi Code of Conduct”.

Ali, meanwhile, raised the issue of Uttar Pradesh police issuing “red cards” to a number of individuals banning them from going near polling booths. He said the poll panel assured that no such cards will be issued in future.

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 Election Commission (EC).

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

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