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Assam Cong moves ECI over decision to “withhold poll data”

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Guwahati, Jan 12: Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) has questioned the Election Commission of India’s (ECI’s) decision to “withhold official information related to election results” in the state.

Addressing a media conference here on Friday, APCC vice-president and senior spokesperson Bobbeeta Sharma expressed concern over the absence of names of polling booths and party affiliations in the Vidhan Sabha booth-wise election results in Form 20 for Assam since 2021.

“When we checked the CEO websites of other states where elections were held recently, we found that for the Kerala elections (2021), Goa elections (2022), Punjab elections (2022) and Karnataka elections (2023), the polling booth names were not there but only the polling booth numbers were mentioned. The party to which the candidates belong have also been omitted. Only candidate’s names are given,” the Assam Congress leader pointed out.

Sharma further said that until 2021, Form 20 carried booth-wise results, mentioning polling booth numbers along with booth names. “It also had names of contesting candidates along with names of parties they represented. But now, surprisingly this practice has been discontinued. So, in the present status, ECI does not reveal the name of the polling booths while declaring results nor the name of party to which a candidate belongs. Instead, it only assigns a number,” she said.

Raising key questions, she asked, “Why is the ECI trying to withhold information from the public? What has compelled ECI to withhold the names of the polling booths? What compelled the Commission to withhold the names of parties of contesting candidates?

“The erasing of booth names will have multiple dimensions as far as any booth-level analysis is concerned,” the senior party spokesperson said.

“The government has access to such data and can do the analysis. Whereas it will be difficult for any other political party, independent agency or research scholar to do the analysis. This makes the election unfair as equal opportunity to do the analysis is lost. This is because for any analysis of voters’ behaviour and EVM malfunctioning, long-term data, specific to the booth, is required. Once the identity of the booth is lost, such analysis of voting in a particular booth becomes virtually impossible,” she said.

“Hence, we are writing a letter to ECI seeking answers to our questions. Besides, we demand publication of the data immediately by including the names of polling booths and political parties,” Sharma said.

“ECI should also ensure that in the coming Lok Sabha elections, the Form 20 election results sheets are published with polling booth numbers along with polling booth names as well as with candidates’ names mentioning political parties, as was the practice earlier,” the Congress leader said.

“We strongly believe that any election-related data of previous years and future should be made available in a transparent manner on the official website of ECI. This will only enhance the credibility of the Commission and the Commissioners,” she said.

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