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‘Your words can have negative impact on voter turnout’

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EC to Kharge on allegations on polling data

New Delhi, May 10: The Election Commission on Friday took strong exception to Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge’s letter to opposition leaders over voter turnout data, terming it an attempt to “push a biased narrative” under the guise of seeking clarifications.
It also dubbed Kharge’s letter an “aggression on the vitals of live conduct of elections”.
In a five-page response with a series of annexures, the poll panel rejected charges of mismanagement and delay in the release of voter turnout data in the first two phases of the Lok Sabha elections. It termed Kharge’s allegations “unwarranted”, “without facts” and “reflective of a biased and deliberate attempt to spread confusion”.
“Utterances from the president of a national political party attacking the very credibility of the electoral steps and processes can have a negative impact on voter participation and can be seen as a means to deter an elector from exercising their franchise and/or demoralizing the huge number of election staff and machinery which is mainly drawn from the respective State Governments,” the EC told Kharge.
The poll panel said while Kharge was free to express concerns with leaders of other parties, making the letter public raised question marks on the intention. It advised the Congress veteran to “exercise caution” and “refrain” from making such statements.
The commission condemned Kharge’s statement in which he wondered whether the delay in releasing voter turnout data was an “attempt to doctor the final results”.
The poll panel said it found Kharge’s letter, placed in the public domain in the middle of the ongoing electoral process, “highly undesirable” and designed to create confusion, misdirection and impediment to the conduct of smooth, free and fair elections.
“Through innuendos and insinuations, the contents of the post tend to create disharmony in respect of the delicate space of election management, can plant doubts in the minds of voters and political parties and potentially create an anarchic situation when you said ‘could this be an attempt to doctor the final results?’ which this Commission hopes you do not have any intention of,” the EC said.
In a series of annexures, the poll authority also gave a factual matrix on changes in voter turnout trends during different phases of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and subsequent assembly elections.
It underlined that booth-wise voter turnout data is available with all contesting candidates and suggested that the Congress should have analysed the data before levelling allegations. (PTI)

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