Counting Day Malpractice: RJD Leader Lost by 1569 Votes, Blames EC
RJD candidate Ritu Kumar filed a complaint with EC demanding vote recount because of malpractices on counting day.
“This fight is not mine or the opposition’s. This is a fight to save democracy.”Ritu Kumar, MLA Candidate, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Bihar from Parihar Assemble Constituency
Rashtriya Janata Dal Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) candidate Ritu Kumar filed a complaint with the Election Commission of India (EC) on 11 November 2020 demanding a recount of votes in her Assembly seat Parihar in Bihar.
Kumar lost by 1569 votes to BJP candidate Gayatri Devi. In her complaint to EC she claims she lost due to ‘malicious practices’.
She told The Quint that the State Election Commission refused to accept her complaint.
“The complaint was also refused by the DC and District Magistrate office. Everybody’s phones were switched off. So I had to email the complaint.”Ritu Kumar, MLA Candidate from Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Bihar
The Election Commission has not yet replied to her complaint. In her complaint Kumar has raised four major issues.
Problem #1 - Postal Votes Not Counted Before Party Agent
Kumar pointed out that 630 out of the 971 postal ballot votes, roughly two-thirds of them, were declared invalid while counting. This is crucial as Kumar won 70% of the valid postal votes.
She also claims that her party agents were not present while the postal ballots were being counted, and that she was informed about the postal ballot results only after counting was over.
“Counting agents have to be present during counting of the postal ballots, but they were not informed. Our agents were asked to sign the documents and accept the result. 2/3 of the ballot paper votes were rejected, EC said they did not tick properly, but most postal ballots come from educated people like teachers etc.”Ritu Kumar, MLA Candidate from Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Bihar
This is a clear violation of EC guidelines which says,
“Candidates are entitled to appoint a counting agent for each counting table for postal ballots.”
EC guidelines also say that postal ballot votes should be counted before the EVM vote counting starts. But in Parihar Assembly seat, the postal votes were counted at last, claims Kumar.
Did you ask election officials why ballot papers were counted in the end and not the beginning, as is the protocol?
Nobody was ready to answer my questions. Why was EC hiding things? Why didn’t they announce properly that the counting of postal ballots has started? When we reached the counting place, we found postal ballots were unsealed and rejected. No explanation was provided about this.
Problem #2 - No CCTV Cameras
Kumar claims that no CCTV cameras were installed in the counting hall to continuously record the whole process. This is again a violation of the EC guidelines which says,
“For transparency… one video camera for each table at the counting centre should be provided.. to record all displays on the EVM display panel from start to end of counting continuously...”
The videography was done by a single cameraperson for the whole counting centre claims Kumar. She adds that he was shooting only intermittently, using a handheld camera.
“If transparency had to be maintained then guidelines issued by the Election Commission should have been followed like having CCTV cameras in the counting room. But none of the halls had CCTV cameras installed anywhere. There was a cameraperson with a handheld camera who was recording the counting intermittently. So unlike a continuous recording made by CCTVs, there is no continuous footage.”Ritu Kumar, MLA Candidate from Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Bihar
Problem #3 - Delay In Announcing Results After Every Round
Votes are counted in multiple rounds. In each round, as per the procedure, votes of 14 EVMs are counted. Kumar claims there was a delay of several hours in the announcement of the results of each round.
EC guidelines say,
“After every round, once Observers have certified, results of that round should be written on the board. Only after that shall EVMs for the next round be brought from the strong room to the counting hall.”
Kumar alleges that the huge gap in the delay of announcing the result of each round increased the chances of manipulation.
“You finish counting the 8th round, but you’re still giving the result for the 2nd round. This huge gap increased the chances of manipulation. Shouldn’t the rounds and announcements go hand in hand?”Ritu Kumar, MLA Candidate from Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Bihar
Problem #4 - Administration Failed to Maintain Security
Kumar claims several BJP workers entered the counting centre forcing her to leave the place.
“The election officers did not make an effort to stop BJP workers from entering the counting centre. Even before the counting was over, announcements were made that so and so party has won.”Ritu Kumar, MLA Candidate from Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Bihar
If the EC is fair and transparent, it should take suo motu cognizance of the malpractice that took place at the Parihar counting centre, rather than candidates needing to file a complaint about it, Kumar told The Quint.
Kumar also said, “This is not a matter of me losing the election and opposition winning it. It is possible that after a recount the opposition may win with a bigger margin.”
The Quint has written to the EC seeking information on the steps taken by them on Kumar’s complaint. Their response is awaited.
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