Elections 2021

Battle-lines drawn for counting day

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on May 22, 2019

EC rejects Opposition demand on VVPAT; Home Ministry apprehends violence

Battle-lines were drawn 24 hours ahead of the counting of votes for the next Lok Sabha, with 22 Opposition parties gearing up for a chance at government formation even as the ruling BJP accused them of “conspiring” to violate the people’s mandate.

The Union Home Ministry’s Wednesday night security alert added to apprehension of violence on arguably the most contested counting day in recent history.

The Election Commission rejected the Opposition’s demand to begin by first counting five random Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) even as different Opposition parties deputed their cadre to ‘monitor’ the counting of votes to thwart what they believed was the BJP’s bid to “rig” the elections. In a statement, the EC said it was neither possible nor feasible to accede to their demand.

“After two rounds of in-depth discussions yesterday and today, it has neither been found possible nor feasible to accede to this demand in the overall context and especially in view of the judgment of the Supreme Court in writ petition No. 273 of 2019 delivered on April 8, 2019. The said judgment dictates that the random selection of VVPATs shall be subjected to the process of slip verification as per the guidelines 16.6 of EVM Manual in force,” said the EC order.

The Home Ministry directed all States and UTs to maintain law and order, peace and public tranquillity. “The Home Ministry has alerted the State chief secretaries and directors general of police regarding possibility of eruption of violence in different parts of the country in connection with the counting of votes tomorrow,” a Home Ministry statement said.

While BJP President Amit Shah, buoyed by the exit polls which have almost unanimously predicted a clear majority for his party, asserted that the Opposition is only “conspiring to violate the mandate”, senior opposition leaders were huddled with the Congress to chalk out a plan.

Opposition getting ready

Some Opposition leaders, with whom BusinessLine spoke, said that if the early trends are in their favour, the 22 Opposition parties will send separate letters to President Ram Nath Kovind stating that they worked for a non-BJP alternative government and each party was part of that effort. The letter, which was drafted on Wednesday and sent to all the leaders, will also request that the President to look for combinations other than the NDA. The first letter will seek permission from him to seek the possibilities of forming a “non-NDA” government.

Accordingly, leaders of 22 parties, including BSP leader Mayawati, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, SP president Akhilesh Yadav and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, will reach here to be strategise. The meeting is likely to pass a resolution, whic too will be sent to the President around 8 pm.

Published on May 22, 2019

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