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Home > 2024 > ‘Ayega to Modi hi? But how? | Faraz Ahmad

Mainstream, VOL 62 No 21, May 25, 2024

‘Ayega to Modi hi? But how? | Faraz Ahmad

Saturday 25 May 2024, by Faraz Ahmad


The Supreme Court on May 24 dismissed the plea of two social and politically concerned organisations— the Association for Democratic Rights (ADR) and Common Cause, seeking apex court directions to the Election Commission of India (ECI) to make public the exact number of votes cast in the last five phases of the general elections currently underway as per the form 17C of the ECI under Rule 93. The remaining two phases, of which the polling for the sixth phase was held on May 25 and the last phase is scheduled for June 1. The results of all the seven phases are to be announced after counting on June 4.

The two organisations, as also several other concerned citizens rushed to the Supreme Court in last few days when a very large section of the voters and several leading Opposition parties repeatedly raised questions over the conduct of elections when the mandate of the Election Commission is to conduct free and fair elections. They have questioned its apparent tilt in favour of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and its two leading campaigners Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

The latest issue came up on account of the Election Commission’s refusal to share crucial Information on polling which was routine till 2019—of announcing the very next day of the polling the final percentage and other related data of votes polled. The final figures in absolute and percentage terms were always marginally higher, but only marginally. But this time while the EC was unwilling to disclose the exact number of votes cast in each phase the percentage too was announced more than a week later after first phase held on April 19, which was unusually higher than the figures given immediately after the polling, leading to suspicion of some manipulation of data. Also, the number of voters in the five phases too has substantially increased by one crore seven lakh votes. This figure was startingly higher leading to suspicion of tampering with the election process and the evm machines. The only way to set at rest any doubts was to upload the data of form 17C of the polling. But the EC refused to share that data, arguing that it was not mandated under the Rules of Procedure to put out this data in public and in fact it would vitiate the election process. That is why the people rushed to the Supreme Court seeking its intervention to direct the EC to upload form 17C data on the EC site.

What is form 17C? As soon as the polling on any polling booth concludes the Election Officer fills up a form designated as 17C which contains the name and number of the polling booth, the serial number of the electronic voting machine, the number of votes cast the number of voters not turned up to vote etc. In effect all the relevant information pertaining to that day of polling. This form, the Polling officer fills up, signs with his seal and hands over its copies to the authorised polling agents of the candidates participating in the polling from that booth, while retaining the original for the Election Commission. Since the form is filled in the presence of the polling agents, the tallying of this form is the foolproof way to establish discrepancy in figures, if any. And if the figures put out by the EC tally with the figures given in form 17C, then there is no cause to question the genuineness of the EC data.

That is why the petitioners approached the Supreme Court to direct the EC to put out this data, despite the EC’s open resistance and refusal to do so.
The Chief Justice of India had fixed May 24 to hear this petition. But by then the court vacations began and therefore a vacation bench of Justice Dipankar Datta and S.C. Sharma heard the petition and dismissed the plea saying that amounted to interference and vitiating the electoral process currently underway. However the petitioners can take this up sometime in July before a regular bench, he said. In July? by which time a new government most likely under Narendra Modi would be ruling the country and what would be the relevance of this petition after June 4? And who would be audacious enough to question Modi or his machinery? That’s like dismissing the whole case outright. Justice Datta questioned the petitioners why raise this issue at this stage, when the election process is underway and when the court should not intervene in any manner in the working of the Election Commission. He mentioned how the original petition in this matter on behalf of former Trinamul Congress MP Mahua Mitra was filed in 2019 and so why did the petitioners wait all this while to raise this issue. But, for one can the petitioners be held responsible for all this delay?

Besides, the Election Commission has abandoned several past practises this time. One, stretching the polling to seven phases and nearly a month and a half. Two, abandoning the practice of holding a press conference after each phase to give out facts, figures and other related information to the media and thereby sharing all relevant information with the voters at large. We need not repeat here the EC reluctance to act strictly against patently communal and divisive speeches by the Prime Minister and Home Minister of the country in this Election campaign, day in and day out.

In this situation the citizen was left with no option but to seek immediate intervention of the highest court. And the Chief Justice of India had shown an inclination to take up this matter in right earnest.

The Honourable judges are not unaware of this reality. It seems now that Modi and his drum beaters’ confidence in ‘ayega to Modi hi’, derives from this suspected manipulation of the voting machines. That may come only on the day of results but need we wait for June 4 after this? I have my doubts.

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