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RJD-Cong allegations: EC says not under anyone”s pressure

Against the backdrop of allegations by the RJD and the Congress that some results were being withheld by returning officers in Bihar, the Election Commission on Wednesday asserted that it was working with due diligence and was not under anyone”s pressure.

Responding to allegations that victory certificates were not been handed over to candidates from the opposition grand alliance by returning officers on 119 seats, the Commission said the latest figures on its website state that while 146 results have been declared and trends of 97 other seats were available.

The state assembly has 243 seats.

Deputy Election Commissioner in charge of Bihar Chandra Bhushan Kumar asserted that the figures available were “authentic” as they have been sent by respective returning officers after completing all formalities.

He said the figure of 119 seats was seen on social media platforms an hour ago. But the latest and “authentic” figure were in public domain now on the EC result website.

Addressing the media for the third time on counting in Bihar amid the coronavirus pandemic, the EC Secretary General said he wants to make it clear on behalf of the Commission that its officials and its election machinery is carrying out counting with due diligence.

“Aayog kabhi bhi kisi ke dabav mein nahin raha hai (The Commission has never worked under anyone”s pressure)”, he asserted.

Sinha had earlier said by tonight most of the results would be announced, while the rest would be out late tonight. He was asked whether all the results would be announced by Wednesday morning.

Commission officials said nearly 1.6 lakh postal ballots were electronically transferred to service votes. Nearly 52,000 postal ballots were used by people above 80 years of age and those with disabilities.

They also rejected allegations that counting of postal ballots was stopped midway. They said at no location, counting was stopped.

Kumar said as per an the EC direction of May 2019, if the winning margin is less than the postal ballots found to be invalid, then the recount of such invalid postal ballots has to be carried out.

He said the postal ballots are rejected and declared invalid after being mandatorily validated by the returning officer.

Earlier in the day, the Commission had said that counting of votes for the Bihar assembly elections will take longer than usual and continue till late in the night because of 63 per cent increase in the number of EVMs.

Out of nearly 7.3 crore voters, 57.09 per cent had cast votes in the polls.

An official said the counting has been “glitch-free” so far.

The ruling NDA in Bihar was ahead of its rivals in more than half of the state”s 243 assembly seats, with the BJP appearing set to outperform its senior alliance partner JD(U) headed by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, according to trends available so far.

To ensure social distancing norms put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the commission had increased the number of polling stations from nearly 65,000 in the 2015 assembly polls to 1.06 lakh.

This meant an increase in the number of electronic voting machines as well.

This time, the EC has restricted the number of voters per polling station to 1,000 from 1,500 to maintain physical distancing, thus increasing the number of polling stations.

“We hope to finish the counting as per procedure late tonight,” said Kumar.

He said in the 2015 assembly polls, counting was held in 38 locations. But to ensure distancing norms, this time, counting is being held at 55 locations.

Responding to a question, Kumar said the number of EVMs deployed have increased. Also the number of postal ballots have used. The Commission has taken steps keeping in mind these.

“There is no question of the pace of counting being slow,” he said.

The number of tables used per hall has been reduced to seven from the usual 14. But 14 tables have been put in place, though locations and as a result locations have increased.

Bhushan said the number of rounds for counting varies between 19 and 51 in different constituencies. The average come to approximately 35 rounds.

Each round takes around 30 minutes to complete.

Responding to a query on some people questioning the reliability of EVMs, Deputy Election Commissioner in charge of EVMs Sudip Jain said the machines are “absolutely tamper-proof” and the Supreme Court has upheld the use of the device on multiple occasions.

One control unit and at least ballot unit make for one EVM.

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