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ECI 'kept quiet' over BJP's polarising campaign in Jharkhand: NGO network

By Our Representative 

The Loktantra Bachao 2024 campaign, a Jharkhand-based civil society network, has claimed that state has voted for a change, "but serious doubts on Election Commission of India's  (ECI's) honesty hang over people’s mandate."
Addressing media in Ranchi, its campaigners Ambika Yadav, Aloka Kujur, BB Choudhary, Elina Horo, Manthan and Tom Kavla said, while its cadres went to the people in every corner of the state for the last year and a half, understood the public issues in detail and closely observed the electoral process, it became clear during its yatras that "a large section of the people voted against the Modi government, especially in the five tribal constituencies."
The campaign said in a statement, "There is widespread anger against the arrest of Chief Minister Hemant Soren. The voters were also united against the attacks on the Constitution and democratic institutions, the BJP’s promises becoming mere rhetoric, the weakening of people's rights and the increase in communal violence across the country", predicting, the INDIA alliance "will get at least 7-8 seats in Jharkhand."
It underlined, "This time, the BJP ran a vicious and communal election campaign across the state. Top leaders, especially the Prime Minister, continuously sought votes by spreading hatred against Muslims, propagating lies and polarizing the people on religious grounds."
It added, "They openly violated the model code of conduct and the Representation of the People Act. Despite several complaints by the campaign, no action was taken against them."
Yet, the campaign regretted, "The role of the Election Commission in this election has been extremely reprehensible. Contrary to its impartial role in the past, the Commission acted as an agent of the BJP. The BJP continued to violate the model code of conduct, such as distributing ballot slips with its election symbol and Modi's photo outside polling booths. Despite repeated complaints, the Commission did not stop this."
It noted, "Apart from giving a free hand to the BJP to spread lies and communalism in its election speeches, the Commission also broke people's faith in the electoral process. This was the first time that the Commission significantly delayed the publishing of the final voting figures after each phase." 
"For example", the campaign said, "the final data for phase 1 was released after 11 days. The final figures are significantly higher than the voter percentage released a day after the polls. There was an increase of more than 1 crore votes across the country. But the Commission is yet to clearly state the reasons for the massive increase." .
Complicity of ECI during elections makes it clear that public needs to be vigilant to protect its electoral decision during the counting of votes
Stating that the campaign has demanded from the Returning Officers of all the Lok Sabhas that they should make booth-wise Form 17C (in which the voting figures are recorded) public before June 4, it lamented, "The complicity of the Commission during the elections makes it clear that the public needs to be vigilant to protect its electoral decision during the counting of votes."
According to the campaign, "The possibility cannot be ruled out that an attempt can be made to overturn the public mandate against the Modi government by creating disturbances or by fraudulent means during the counting of votes."
In such a situation, the campaign made an appeal, stating:
  • The Election Commission and all the Returning Officers should immediately put all 17C forms in the public domain to ensure transparency in the counting of votes.
  • The current Election Commissioners and officials should take inspiration from the glorious history of the Commission and ensure honest counting of votes.
  • All citizens should be vigilant of their electoral decision and the final result declared by the ECI. They should keep a special vigil on the day of counting. The people should not let their electoral decisions be stolen or changed under any circumstances.
  • The INDIA alliance should be vigilant on the day of counting, match the votes on the basis of Form 17C and demand the Commission to do its job in letter and spirit.

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