NEW DELHI : Even as various exit polls predicted an emphatic victory for the ruling AAP in the Delhi elections, the party lashed out at the Election Commission on Sunday, alleging a 24-hour delay in announcing the voting percentage and not sticking to the process in transferring the electronic voting machines from polling booths to strongrooms.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal termed the delay as absolutely shocking. “What is EC doing? Why are they not releasing the poll turnout figures several hours after polling?,” he asked.
A controversy erupted Sunday evening as the Election Commission was yet to declare the final voter turnout for Delhi almost 20 hours after voting ended Saturday. While the EC did record the tentative voter turnout Saturday at 61 per cent at 10.58 pm, it is yet to declare the final turnout, stoking fears of foul play.
Those raising questions about the delay included Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) — while Arvind Kejriwal questioned the delay on Twitter, CM Kejriwal on Sunday said what is EC doing? Why are they not releasing poll turnout figures, several hours after polling?” Mr Kejriwal tweeted, while his party alleged voter fraud by tampering the Electronic Voting Machines or EVMs. “The turnout is about 62.55 per cent.” Asked about the allegations of delay, Delhi Chief Electoral Officer Ranbir Singh said,
“Data entry usually takes time.The tentative figures are already known, so final figures will not be very different.” “I just received the final data this morning, so it will take some time for it to be computed… I am hoping the numbers will be out by today.””Accuracy is very important, it was taking time to collate the data,” Delhi’s CEO Ranbir Singh said. S.K. Mendiratta, a former legal adviser to the EC, said there was no statutory time limit within which voter turnout data has to be released.
Voter turnout figures are generally released the same evening voting ends, but later announcements are not unprecedented. In the 2016 West Bengal assembly elections, for example, the final voter data was declared 48 hours after the polling was concluded. In the 2018 Telangana elections, there was a delay of 24 hours.
Voting for the Delhi assembly election closed at 6 pm on Saturday. More than 24 hours later, the Election Commission said around 62.59 per cent of 1.47 crore eligible residents voted in the polls, compared to 67.5 percent in 2015. The data is usually released on the same evening of the election.
Late into the night, Election Commission spokesperson Sheyphali Sharan posted a screenshot of the app at 10:17 pm – almost four hours after voting ended – saying that the “estimated” turnout was 61.43 per cent.
“There was an incident at Babarpur [where some EC officials were alleged to be holding the EVMs illegally]. A similar incident is being reported from Vishwas Nagar,” he said. The poll panel officials, however, said all procedures are being strictly followed in the matter.
The exit poll conducted by India Today-Axis-My India predicted a total sweep for AAP, giving the party between 59-68 seats in the 70-member Delhi Assembly. The Axis-My India poll predicted between 2-11 constituencies for the BJP and no seat for the Congress.