Parties allege attempt to influence vote count, top poll body responds
The Election Commission on Tuesday clarified that a recount would only be ordered in case the margin of victory was less than the number of postal ballots found invalid for a given constituency.
“Where the margin of victory is less than the number of postal ballot papers rejected at the time of counting as invalid, all rejected postal ballot papers shall be mandatorily reverified by the returning officer. Wherever such revivification is done, the entire proceeding should be videographed as per instructions of the Commission”the Commission officials said referring to demands made by a few political parties to have a recount.
The CPI-ML has asked for recounting of votes in light of the slim margin of its defeat in three constituencies.
“We urgently seek a recount of votes in the Bhorey, Arrah and Daraundha Assembly constituencies of Bihar. On all three of these seats, CPI-ML candidates have been shown to be defeated in very narrow margins, following some worrying violations of counting norms,” said CPI-ML politburo member Kavita Krishnan in a representation to the chief election commissioner on Tuesday.
“In Bhorey (103), the JDU candidate Sunil Kumar is a former Additional DGP and therefore commands a lot of clout in the administration. The local JDU MP Alok Kumar Suman was seen entering the counting hall – which is illegal and prohibited. This was clearly an attempt to influence the fair count of votes. As of now, the ECI site shows Sunil Kumar at 73550 votes and CPIML’s Jitendra Paswan at 72524 votes. We seek your urgent intervention to ensure a recount of votes on this constituency,” Krishnan added.
EC secretary-general Umesh Sinha, however, shot down any allegations of undue pressure on the Commission. “The Election Commission is not under anyone’s influence,” said Sinha.
The Commission further clarified that the results for only 146 assembly constituencies in Bihar had been declared so far (as of 10pm), with trends for the remaining 97 seats available on its website.
The statement came in the wake of the Rashtriya Janata Dal releasing a list of 119 seats that it had purportedly won in the state.
“A message on social media claimed that a party has won 119 seats about an hour ago, the ECI’s website is in the public domain and one can see that only 146 seats have been won so far,” said deputy election commissioner Chandra Bhushan.
The RJD had claimed that there was a delay in issuing certificates of victory. Earlier in the day, the party had also said that the Nitish Kumar-led administration was delaying counting in the state.
As of 9:30 pm, 3.96 crore of the votes had been counted, as the politically charged battle for the 243-member Bihar assembly continued. The total number of electors in Bihar stand at 7.2 crore, out of which 57.09%, or over 4 crore people, have cast their ballot in this assembly election, according to the Commission.
The top poll body also explained that the counting was taking longer than expected as expansive Covid-19 guidelines were being followed in the state. Per guidelines, put in place for the first large-scale Covid-19 polls, the number of tables in the counting centers were slashed from 14 to 7, to ensure social distancing norms. The number of counting halls have also been increased from 38 to 55.
“In all assembly constituencies counting is happening at invariably 14 tables, across large halls,” said deputy election commissioner Chandra Bhushan, who is the EC in-charge for Bihar. “The number of rounds of counting range from 19 at the least to 51 at the most. The average number of rounds per constituency will be around 35. We hope to finish the counting as per procedure by late tonight.”
Deputy election commissioner Ashish Kundra added that nearly 1.6 lakh ballots were dispatched for service voters, of which as of the most recent data, over 50,000 have been received by the returning officers.
“The final data for postal ballots will only be available at the RO level,” said Chandra Bhushan. He added that since the number of rounds of counting would vary from constituency to constituency, exact data could not be provided.
Nearly 63% more polling booths were set up, up from 65,000 in 2015 to 1.06 lakh in 2020 to meet the Covid-19 guidelines. “Correspondingly, the number of Electronic Voter Machines (EVMs) have also increased to 1.06 lakh.”
Deputy election commissioner Sudeep Jain further underlined that the EVMs were absolutely robust, shooting down any questions about a possibility of tampering with the counting.
Bihar is witnessing a politically charged contest with numbers seeming to be a far cry from the exit poll predictions. Exit polls had predicted an edge for the RJD-led Mahagathbandhan.