AA Edit | Delay in voting figures: EC must be transparent

Critics raise concerns over the Election Commission's transparency and timely intervention amid allegations of electoral misconduct.

The question that Opposition leaders and public intellectuals raise about the Election Commission of India on what they perceive as lack of transparency and the will to act on time requires the immediate attention on the part of the poll body and corrective action.

One of the serious allegations is that the EC took 11 days to come out with an official release on the final percentage of polling in the first phase of election to the 18th Lok Sabha. It is a fact that a press release of the EC, published through the Press Information Bureau of the Government of India on April 30, 2024, put out the final figure of polling in the first phase as 66.14 per cent; it also recorded the final figure for the second phase as 66.71 per cent. These are against 69.43 and 69.17 per cent, respectively, in the 2019 elections.

The public is given to understand that the EC had indeed put out the same figures on its app the day after the polling for the first phase. The EC may have its reasons to take the technological route and update the data but it must realise that the public collects authentic information when it places it in the public domain as it has done on April 30. It is untenable that the EC does not follow a regular, familiar route in disseminating critical information related to the general election. It must form and then follow a protocol for such key elements of its functioning.

There is also criticism of the EC for its failure to update the number of actual voters in each constituency and the number of voters who exercised their franchise. It defies logic that the EC provides an occasion for political parties to raise such serious allegations. The EC conducts elections on the basis of an electoral roll which goes through several rounds of revision before being finalised ahead of the voting. It gets the form on voting in each booth a day after the date of polling and hence should have all the data, including on the number of people who have voted in each constituency, without much difficulty. There is no reason why it chooses not to publish it as soon as it has it.

People in the know of the process claim that there cannot be foul play with respect to the numbers since representatives of the political parties at the booth level have the same set of data, and they can verify them on the date of counting. However, it is incumbent upon the mammoth machinery of the EC to get the data collated and aggregated; it is not a great idea to depend on booth-level agents of the parties who will have little idea of the whole picture. Moreover, the general public would rather have the data from the constitutional body mandated to conduct the polls, and not from anyone else.

The EC last week sent notices to both the BJP and the Congress on the alleged violation of the Model Code of Conduct. In fact, the charge against Prime Minister Narendra Modi was pretty serious in that he is alleged to have made communally divisive speeches during election rallies. There has been no action from the poll regulator and the Prime Minister keeps making speeches that have similar content nonstop. The EC will be failing in its job if it is unable to intervene in time and stop the wrongdoers. It must do the right thing and then be seen to be doing so.

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