In a first, ECI chides Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge for his letter on voter turnout data

Kharge had highlighted that ECI released final voter turnout data for first 2 phases on 30 April - 11 days after 1st phase polling and 4 days after 2nd phase. Final voter turnout of 3rd phase is still awaited.

BySouth First Desk

Published May 10, 2024 | 5:10 PMUpdatedMay 10, 2024 | 6:16 PM

The Commission led by CEC Rajiv Kumar (center) and ECs Gyanesh Kumar (left) and Sukhbir Singh Sandhu monitoring the progress of phase 1 polling of general elections at the ECI headquarters in New Delhi on Friday. (X)

The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Friday, 10 May, took strong exception to Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge’s letter to opposition leaders over voter turnout data, terming it an attempt to “push a biased narrative” under the guise of seeking clarifications.

The response by ECI is a rare occurrence considering that the commission does not interfere, intervene or comment usually on intra or inter party communications. This is the first instance of the ECI pulling up a national party’s President for a letter addressed to leaders of other political parties. In its letter, ECI even warns Kharge of action for raising concerns in his letter over delay in voter turnout data and lack of clarity on break up.

Mallikarjun Kharge in his letter had highlighted the delay by ECI in releasing the final voter turnout data. Break up of how many people cast their votes in the first phase polling came from ECI after 11 days while data for second phase came four days after polling. Final voter turnout data for third phase of polling that took place on 7 May, is still awaited.

In a five-page response with annexures, the poll panel rejected charges of mismanagement and delay in the release of voter turnout data and termed Kharge’s allegations “unwarranted”, “without facts” and “reflective of a biased and deliberate attempt to spread confusion”.

The commission condemned Kharge’s statement in which he wondered whether the delay in releasing voter turnout data was an “attempt to doctor the final results”.

The poll panel said it found Kharge’s letter, placed in the public domain in the middle of the ongoing electoral process, “highly undesirable” and designed to create confusion, misdirection and impediment to the conduct of smooth, free and fair elections.

“Through innuendos and insinuations, the contents of the post, tend to create disharmony in respect of the delicate space of election management, can plant doubts in the minds of voters and political parties and potentially created an anarchic situation, when you said ‘could this be an attempt to doctor the final results?’ which this Commission hopes you do not have any intention of,” the EC said.

Also Read: Kharge writes to Opposition leaders on ‘discrepancies’ in polling data released by EC

(With PTI inputs)