CEC says 'fake' narratives spread to sway elections, dares opposition to give proof to back claims

07:55 AM Jun 04, 2024 | PTI |

New Delhi: Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar on Monday said “fake” and “mischievous” narratives were spread to sway the general elections and sought proof from the opposition to back its claim that district magistrates were influenced to vitiate the poll process.


“You cannot spread a rumour and bring everyone under a cloud of suspicion,” Kumar said, citing opposition claims on faulty electoral rolls, the efficacy of EVMs, voter turnout and the counting process.

Flanked by election commissioners Gyanesh Kumar and S S Sandhu, the CEC was speaking at a press conference on the eve of the counting of votes.

“There is a pattern, there is a design, I’m not saying it’s a toolkit. But there is a design,” the CEC said, adding that cases pending for years were raked up just four days before the first phase of polling.

The Commission had made preparations to deal with any foreign attempt to influence the poll process but these allegations have come from within the country itself, he said in an apparent dig at the opposition.


“We failed to understand the fake narratives that were going on during the elections, but we have understood now,” Kumar said.

With the EC facing criticism for holding elections in peak summer, the CEC said one of three big learnings from the polls was that this process should have been completed a month earlier.

“They shouldn’t have been held in such hot weather. It is a big election that involves a lot of forces. There is a lot of movement. We cannot reduce the time taken for the process but it could have been done earlier instead of in such heat,” Kumar said.
“We failed to understand the fake narratives that were going on during the elections. But we have understood it now… We have to prepare next time to fight the fake narratives,” the CEC said.

Taking exception to allegations that district magistrates were being influenced, the CEC said, “Those levelling allegations should say which DM was influenced and we will punish them. They should tell us before the counting process begins.”

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh had claimed that Home Minister Amit Shah had been calling district magistrates and collectors and indulging in “blatant and brazen” intimidation.

District magistrates and collectors are the returning officers of their respective districts during elections.

Ramesh claimed that Shah had already spoken with 150 district magistrates or collectors.

The poll panel had asked the Congress leader to submit factual details by Sunday evening of the allegations that he made in a social media post recently but he wrote to the EC on Monday seeking one week’s time to submit his reply.

The Election Commission, however, refused to grant additional time to the Congress leader and said he should file his response “by 7 PM today — June 3, failing which it would be presumed that you have nothing substantive to say in the matter and the Commission would proceed ahead to take appropriate action”.

Kumar said the EC has accepted all the demands made by the multi-party delegation that met the panel on Sunday and asserted that the issues raised by them were part of the election process going on for seven decades.

“Some demands were made by a multi-party delegation. We have agreed to all the demands,” Kumar said, indicating that most of the issues raised by the multi-party delegation were part of election manuals.

“This process has been going on for 70 years… We have instructed every RO/ARO. These are our orders and they are no joke. Everyone has been instructed to follow the handbook/manuals,” Kumar said.

On the opposition claims on postal ballots, the CEC said the postal ballot counting will be taken up first and the counting of votes registered in EVMs will begin 30 minutes later.

“The same process was followed in the 2019 and 2022 assembly elections. As soon as EVM counting gets over, five random VVPAT counting begins,” Kumar said.


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