Poll panel rejects Opposition's demand to tweak VVPAT counting process

The Delhi unit of the BJP has ordered laddoos weighing 7 kg each, cakes and lotus-shaped sweets
If early trends are favourable, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has planned a victory procession to reach its national headquarters in the national capital on Thursday evening, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi would address.

The Delhi unit of the BJP has ordered laddoos weighing 7 kg each, cakes and lotus-shaped sweets. BJP workers in Delhi and from neighbouring states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh would make their way into Delhi by Thursday evening to be part of the victory celebrations. Over the past five years, the BJP has marked its bigger electoral wins in Assembly polls by taking out well-attended processions.

The Election Commission on Wednesday rejected the demand of 22 opposition parties that VVPAT, or voter-verified paper audit trail, slips for the mandatory five polling stations per assembly segment of each Lok Sabha seat be counted before the start of the counting process. It said it will follow the “established procedure” of counting it at the end of the counting process.

In several tweets, BJP President Amit Shah accused the Opposition of “disrespecting” people’s mandate by raising doubts on EVMs and said it was “tarnishing” the Indian democracy as it was rattled by its “likely defeat” in the Lok Sabha elections.
“How can you question EVMs credibility on the basis of exit polls,” he asked. Shah termed as unconstitutional the demand of 22 opposition parties that the EC change its counting protocol and count five random VVPATs first, saying any decision in this regard is not possible without an all-party consensus. Shah slammed statements of some Opposition leaders like Upendra Kushwaha that people can take up arms and resort to violence. He said such comments have no place in a democracy and asked who is challenging democracy.

EC sources said the commission has decided to count postal ballots simultaneously with EVMs. This is because the numbers of ballots received from service voters are unprecedented. Of the 1.8 million registered voters, including defence personnel and diplomats, 1.65 million have sent their postal ballots to their respective returning officers as on May 17.

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the EC’s rejection of the Opposition demand to first count the VVPAT slips went against the “spirit” of a Supreme Court order on the devices. “If the process has been so long drawn for the sake of integrity of the electoral process, why is (the) EC not adhering to the basic principle of testing the sample first?” he asked.

“A constitutional travesty! ECI wants to set a new precedent of ‘dark secrets’ and ‘secluded chambers’ in doing its constitutional duties. If the CEC can’t play fair in its functioning, can it play fair in ensuring a free & fair election?" Congress's chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tweeted.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi urged party workers to stay alert and vigilant. “The next 24 hours are very crucial. Stay alert and vigilant. Don't be scared. You are fighting for the truth. Don't be disheartened by the propaganda of fake exit polls. Believe in yourself and the Congress. Your hard work will not go waste. Jai Hind,” he said in a tweet in Hindi. On Monday, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had issued a similar message.