Journalist bodies demand ECI press conference after every phase of LS election, release of polling data

They expressed shock and surprise that the Commission did not release the 'absolute number of votes polled' in the last three phases.

BySouth First Desk

Published May 12, 2024 | 3:32 PMUpdatedMay 12, 2024 | 3:32 PM

Press Club of India. (Creative Commons)

Journalist bodies in India expressed dismay at the Election Commission (EC) not holding a single press conference even after the completion of voting in three phases across the nation.

“Till 2019, the last general election, holding a press conference after voting in each phase was the normal practice. India, being one of the largest democracies in the world and the general election considered as the ‘biggest festival of democracy’, the citizens have every right to know what has happened on the voting day, from the constitutional body, the Election Commission of India,” the said in a letter to the Chief Election Commissioner.

In the letter signed by Press Club of India President Gautam Lahiri, the Indian Women Press Corp, Press Association, Foreign Correspondent Club and the Delhi Union of Journalists demanded that the ECI hold a press conference after every phase of voting.

Also Read: INDIA bloc leaders meet EC over voter turnout data

Demands release of entire poll data

“Further, we demand that the entire poll data, including absolute number of votes polled and final percentage of voting be released by the next day of the polling. Such transparency is necessary to uphold the voters’ confidence in the electoral system,” they said.

They said that at press conferences, the journalists get their doubts cleared which helps them report and write error-free copy for their readers.

“They keep the citizens accurately informed and updated on the ongoing election. The Election Commissioners can also speak directly to voters via electronic media during a press conference,” the letter said.

They expressed shock and surprise that the Commission did not release the “absolute number of votes polled” in the last three phases.

“This was not the case in the past elections. These developments have led to apprehension in the minds of people about the fairness of the elections,” they said.

Also Read: In a first, ECI chides Mallikarjun Kharge for his letter on voter turnout data

Civil society organisations, Opposition parties seek data

On 11 May, several civil society organisations — including the National Alliance for People’s Movements, Bahutva Karnataka, All India Lawyers Association for Justice, Bharat Bachao Andolan, and Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy — came together to take part in a national campaign criticising the EC.

One concern the participants in this campaign have cited is that voter turnout data has been shared only in percentages but not in numbers, raising concerns about vote-count manipulation.

On 10 May, the leaders of the INDIA bloc met the top brass of the EC.

The meeting comes over the voter turnout data released by the EC in the first two phases, as well as over the alleged violations of the model code of conduct by the BJP leaders during the ongoing Lok Sabha polls.

On 7 May, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge had written to the leaders of various Opposition parties on the issue of alleged “discrepancies” in the voting data released by the EC. The Opposition leaders then decided to approach the EC over the issue.

However, the EC on 10 May responded to Kharge’s letter to the fellow INDIA bloc leaders that was also posted on X and rejected his allegations that it had delayed the release of the 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 the president of a national political party are attacking the very credibility of the electoral steps and processes and can have a negative impact on voter participation.

(Edited by Muhammed Fazil)