SABRANGINDIA EXCLUSIVE: Election 2024, ECI: Technical glitch, gross negligence or deliberate manipulation?

Calling for a close re-examination of the issue by the Supreme Court of India, the author: asks what did the inexplicable delay in declaration of total polled votes mean for the 2024 result? Arguably a significant difference of seats in favour of the NDA! With a 12.54% vote hike in Odisha, NDA got 20 out of 21 seats, in Andhra Pradesh with a 12.54% hike NDA cornered 21 out of 25 seats, in Assam with a 9.19% hike, seats of NDA stood at 11 of 14 and in Chhattisgarh, the hike of 4.66 % in votes meant that the NDA won 10 seats out of 11. This deliberate delay plus a discrepancy in EVM votes, is likely to have affected results in another (minimum) eight seats.

Read this Sabrang Exclusive Data Crunch on how the 2024 Results need to be understood:

Needless to say that the faith of a citizen in Governance germinates out of the process of fair, impartial, efficient and transparent elections by free exercise of the right to vote, given by ‘we, the citizens of India’ through adult suffrage in Article 326 of the Constitution of India, there is no provision for seeking votes on the basis of caste, creed, religion, enticement or threat by hate speech.

To this end, Article 334 has provided for the establishment of the Election Commission of India and the legislature has framed ‘The Representation of The People Act 1951’ and the Election Rules 1961, thereunder. The Act and the rules, have made various provisions elaborately for the conduct of free and fair election. Each functionary and authority down the lane even up to the booth level presiding/polling officers, are duty bound to conduct fair election. Under Section 27 of the Act, duty is cast on the Presiding officer to ensure a free and fair exercise. Further the duties and rights of election agents, polling agents and the counting agents stand incorporated under section 40 to 50 of the Act for an impartial and transparent procedure. Further under ‘The Conduct of Election Rules 1961’ there are more safeguards for transparency and fairness so as to put an end to arbitrariness and fudging the data of votes polled.

Under Rule 49 L the name of each elector is to be entered in serial order in Register 17A and his/her signatures are obtained before allowing him /her to vote. In fact it is a live register and real time monitoring. Voter turnout can be seen at any moment and the same has to be uploaded every 2 hours on the ENCORE App.

At the close of the polls Rule 49 S provides that number of votes polled is to be declared by the PO after pressing close button and the said number is recorded in Form 17-C.  A signed copy of this form 17-C, is given to each Polling Agent present at the close of the poll. As such, there should be no delay in declaration of votes having been polled at the polling booth and the same is to be uploaded on ENCORE App. Under rule 93(2) form 17-C can be inspected and a copy can be obtained by a citizen after making payment of fee as prescribed.

However, during the recently concluded elections to the 18th Lok Sabha, the transparency and fairness has come under cloud on more than one occasion and on various issues. The Election Commission of India (ECI) kept trying to keep everything concealed, and kept trying to by-pass all the established norms. This attitude of the ECI created suspicion and strong doubts about the fairness of the whole exercise.

The first and foremost blow to the transparency and accountability was struck, when the ECI failed to declare figures of the votes polled at the end of the polls. Though ECI posted initial provisional percentage of voter turnout for the 1st Phase (April 19) at around 7.00 pm on the day at 60% but actual votes polled or the final figure of voter turnout was not divulged for 11 days! There is no rational excuse for this delay. Criticism and questions led to a callous and stony silence on behalf of the ECI. This silence by an institution that is constitutionally mandate to have unfailing allegiance to each and every citizen of India, the Voter, and not the Government in power, led to more confusion and suspicion. Thereafter for the 2nd phase too (April 26), only a provisional figure of 60.96% was declared, the final figures were not declared. After a lot of hue and cry in media the ECI on 30.04.2024 declared final provisional figures to be 66.14% for 1st phase and 66.71% for 2nd phase. As such an unexplained huge hike of voter turn by 6.14% and 5.75% was therefore shown for both the 1st and 2nd phase. Before public vigilance grew stronger and ECI’s motives were openly suspect, already votes to 192 and 89 seats had been case in the 1st and 2nd phases respectively.

ECI hikes failed to divulge figures of voter Turn Out in time

Thereafter the ECI made it a routine to hike the voter turnout figure after 4-5 days, the hike was 4.23%, 6.32%, 4.73%, 4.31% and 4.33% in the 3rd, 4th,5th,6th and the 7th phases respectively. These elections took place on May 7, May 13m May 20, May 25 and June 1 respectively. These Phases individually accounted for 94, 96, 49, 57 and 57 seats respectively.

Despite the fact that the ECI remains unaccountably obdurate and unconvincing in addressing serious questions of the anomalies, they raise questions that must be answered, This unexplained hike when analysed phase wise and state wise depicts startling figures of hike in each state and same being connected to the tally of the BJP and NDA as shown in table below.

The curious case of Punjab

Further that BJP vote share in Punjab rose to 18.56% with hike of 6.94% in voter turnout.  In Chandigarh with increase of 5.18% the winning margin reduced to 2504, in Tamil Nadu turn out hiked by 9.53% and BJP Vote share rose to get more than doubled to 11.24%.

Table above depicts that in UP first two phases voter turnout hiked by 3.02% NDA got 9 seats out of 16, strike rate of 56.25% but when in next 5 phases hike was only 0.25% NDA tally was 27/64 strike rate of 42.2% only.

ECI: Misplaced, misleading claims

The claim of ECI that the voter turnout cannot be uploaded on same or 2nd day because the distances are too long, connectivity is too poor, voting closes in late hours, polling parties are dead tired.

However this lie is badly exposed because in Chandigarh where the connectivity is first rate, and the constituency has only 614 polling booths, the total voter turnout is only 4,48,547 voters, distance within the Constituency is within a radius of 15 kms, yet the turnout has been increased by 5.18%, that too after the tally is made public after four days! The ECI has no reply to this. The geographical area, the total number of voters, polling booths and distances are minimum (small) as compared to any district of UP with almost more than a million votes polled in each constituency! Yet, in Chandigarh, the final figures of polling were given on June 6, an inexplicable 5 days after polling, showing a hike of 5.18% whereas in UP (in the last 5 phases), there was negligible change in EVM figures of of 0.25% only.

With a 12.54% vote hike in Odisha, NDA got 20 out of 21 seats, in Andhra Pradesh with 12.54% hike cornered 21 out of 25 seats, in Assam with a 9.19% hike, the seats of NDA stood at 11 of 14 and in Chhattisgarh, the hike of 4.66 % in votes meant that the NDA won 10 seats out of 11.

Tampering of votes polled in EVMs

Did the manipulation stop there?

After polling in 542 seats in 7 phases and the mess created by this unexplained hike of vote percentage in each phase to the extent of 4.31% to 6.32% was not the only way this 18th Lok Sabha election was manipulated. The matter did not stop there.

The sanctity of EVM also stands breached in 539 seats. Only in 3 seats one in Lakshadweep, one in Damma & Diu and one in Amreli in Gujrat the votes recovered in EVM were exactly the same as the votes polled.

However, in the rest of the 539 seats the votes polled in EVM did not tally with the votes recovered in EVM at the time of counting. Discrepancy of votes has been found in all the 7 phases, the variation ranging from 1 vote to a staggering 16, 791 votes!

The Table below depicts in 274 seats EVM votes variation range is 1-500, in another 97 seats it is between 501 -1000, while in a mindboggling number of seats that 151 seats variation range is 1001-5000. However, 17 seats showed the variation of more than 5000 votes, the highest being 16791 votes in Tiruvallur of Tamil Nadu.

EVM Votes mismatch Range01-500501-10001001-30003001- 5000More than 5000
No. of Seats3274971114017


Excess votes recovered from EVM of 174 Constituencies

In a significant, 174 seats the votes recovered from EVM s at the end of counting hour was more than the votes actually polled in the EVMs during polling time before close of polls.

The range of excess votes is the minimum and the maximum between 1 and 3811 votes and can be seen per constituency in each phase of polling in the table below.

While in as many as 365 seats votes recovered from EVMs during counting were less than the votes polled in the EVMs during polling, the range being between 1 and 16791, the minimum and the maximum limit.

Out of these a few constituencies depicting high deficit are listed in the table below:

Here are some seats where the BJP has won by a very narrow margin and the discrepancy of votes polled in EVM and Votes recovered from EVM is also significant in relation to these margins.

As such one can imagine very easily that these 10 seats with so narrow a margin need an explanation from the ECI as to how could sanctity of votes polled in EVMs be jeopardised? When this margin has affected the result decisively?

ECI claimed in its press release on 25.05.2024 as under:

“Any alteration in number of votes polled is not possible. The whole exercise of release of turn out data from the commencement of date of polls on19th April 2024 has been accurate, consistent and in accordance with the election laws and without any discrepancy whatsoever.”

Will the ECI be able to make public as to whether its data was wrong, arguably even manipulated and a fake claim had been propagated about its invincibility? Or was the exercise only any eye wash to intentionally mislead the public so that criticism is diluted and no finger is pointed out at such serious flaws? Let the Hon’ble Supreme Court also now come out boldly and openly on this manifest slap in the face of democracy by its own highest institutions.

The ECI is –to date –not giving any detailed or cogent explanation about these huge discrepancies in EVM Votes in 539 constituencies! Rather, it is trying to mislead –by an exercise in guess work—where, in fact there has been an effort to promote a conscious negligence, active connivance. Worse, the deliberate attempt has been to make the process opaque to enable one-sided favours by the ECI. This constitutional body, the ECI could have come out with a cogent explanation for the mismatch of EVM votes for each constituency individually and severely.

Trust is low, in both the ECI as well as in EVMs. Faith and a Free and Fair Election has been dealt a blow.

(The author is former Dean, Punjab University Faculty of Medical Sciences)

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are the author’s personal views, and do not necessarily represent the views of Sabrangindia.



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