Civil society vigilance intensifies amidst concerns of electoral manipulation

Civil society members are concerned that BJP might try to manipulate the electoral machinery to retain power.

ByNolan Patrick Pinto

Published Jun 02, 2024 | 10:59 AM Updated Jun 02, 2024 | 10:59 AM

Civil society groups, community organisations, and various civic movements have concluded a series of crucial consultative meetings in Bengaluru and Delhi.

Civil society groups, community organisations, and various civic movements have concluded a series of crucial consultative meetings in Bengaluru and Delhi.

There is palpable concern among the coalition members regarding BJP’s historical approach to elections, with fears that it might attempt to manipulate the electoral machinery to retain power despite the public mandate.

Their focus was on safeguarding the electoral process, a concern that resonates across the diverse spectrum of Indian society.

These meetings, held on 21 and 28 May, respectively, attracted diverse participants — including farmers’ leaders, workers’ groups, Dalit activists, women’s rights advocates, and professional experts — from all corners of India, reflecting the widespread concern over the issue.

The series of consultations was reportedly necessitated by what many see as troubling signs of partisanship and lack of transparency from the Election Commission of India (ECI), the constitutional body responsible for overseeing the conduct of elections in the country.

This issue has escalated concerns given the context of a highly contentious electoral environment that participants argue transcends a mere political contest to represent a fundamental battle between the ruling establishment and the broader citizenry.

Also Read: Civil society groups to protest EC inaction on hate speech

Vigilant Voters Task Force

Lokesh Naik, a vocal activist in the movement, highlighted recent actions by the ECI that raised alarm.

“Well, you’ve heard how that for the first time in the history of this country, the Election Commission of India delayed publishing the information of the total votes that were cast,” he noted.

“That is the first indicator that something is wrong. This is an abuse of power. This is an abuse of the system, of the electorate system that this country is famous for,” he alleged.

In response to these concerns, civil society said it had taken steps to ensure transparency and fairness during the vote-counting process.

Central to this strategy is the formation of the “Vigilant Voters Task Force” (VVTF).

This grassroots initiative is expected to deploy teams across all Lok Sabha constituencies in Karnataka and other states, closely monitoring the vote counting and immediately challenging any perceived discrepancies.

Through these measures, the groups apparently intend to show their commitment to a fair electoral process.

Also Read: Over 17,000 citizens vcall for ECI action against PM Modi’s ‘hate speech’

More measures

Additionally, to exert pressure on administrative bodies overseeing the elections, civil society groups have dispatched formal letters to election officers, the President of India, and the Chief Justice of India demanding strict oversight and adherence to democratic principles during the electoral process.

These letters outline specific concerns and expectations, and are intended to serve as a clear message of the coalition’s determination to ensure a fair and transparent election.

The groups have also reportedly engaged with Opposition political parties, urging them to train and prepare their counting agents to be exceptionally vigilant and anticipate potential malpractices.

Reflecting on the broader implications of this election, participants emphasised its critical importance for the future of India’s democracy, constitutional values, and the general welfare of its citizens.

To further support transparency and voter assistance, helpline numbers have been established:

  • For southern states: 9741482975, 6366705015
  • For northern states: 9870419280, 7982597191