Postal ballots will be counted first: Chief Election Commissioner

The Uncut

New Delhi. Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar said on Monday that the counting of postal ballots will start first at all counting centers and there is no doubt about it. He said in a press conference here that the counting of votes recorded in Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) will start half an hour after the counting of postal ballots begins.

Leaders of the opposition coalition Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INI) on Sunday urged the Election Commission to ensure that postal ballots are counted and their results are declared before the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) results on June 4.

Kumar said, “The rules clearly state (Rule 54A) that the counting of postal ballots will start first. There is no doubt that it will start first at all the centers in the country. After half an hour we start counting the votes recorded in EVMs.” He said, “Yesterday this happened in the case of Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim assembly (counting). Why can’t we change it, because it is in accordance with the rules.” Kumar said that counting of postal ballots and then counting of votes recorded in EVMs and finally matching of VVPAT slips with EVM results will continue.

On ‘missing gentleman’ meme, CEC said: We are here, never outside

Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar on Monday referred to various memes circulating on social media, saying he and his fellow Election Commissioners Gyanesh Kumar and Sukhbir Singh Sandhu were “never outside” and were “always here”.
Social media users had targeted the Commission for its alleged absence amid violations of the Model Code of Conduct by top leaders during the Lok Sabha election campaign and called the institution a ‘missing gentleman’. These memes were based on the recent film ‘Missing Ladies’.

Addressing a press conference here on the eve of counting of votes, Kumar said in a lighter vein that now people will see memes on social media with the tag line that the ‘missing gentlemen’ are back. He said, “We were never outside, we were always here. We chose to interact with you through our press notes. This was the first time we released about 100 press notes and consultations simultaneously.” CEC Kumar, who was present with both the Election Commissioners, said that the election officials have been communicating behind the scenes and on Monday they decided to hold a press conference.

He said that questions were raised on flaws in the voter list, reliability of EVMs and alleged manipulation of voting percentage data. The CEC said that the person making the allegation was present in the court, but no witness was present there. He said that no complaint of any kind has been received from the candidates and those who received Form 17C, which keeps a record of votes cast at the booth. On various allegations against the Election Commission, Kumar said, “…meaning, something is coming, I am not saying it.” Referring to more than one crore polling workers engaged in election duty, he said that they are the unsung heroes of the elections.

The process of holding assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir will begin very soon: CEC Rajiv Kumar
The Election Commission on Monday said it will begin the process of holding assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir very soon. Addressing a press conference here, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar said the Election Commission is very excited by the voting percentage in Jammu and Kashmir during the Lok Sabha elections, which reflects the eagerness of people to participate in the democratic process.

He said, “We will soon start the process of assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir. We are very excited. This is one of the most satisfying moments.” During the Lok Sabha elections, 58.58 percent voting took place in Jammu and Kashmir. This is the highest voting percentage in four decades. He said that 51.05 percent voting took place in the Lok Sabha seats in the Kashmir Valley. Announcing the schedule of the Lok Sabha elections in March, Kumar had said that holding assembly and parliamentary elections together is not practical due to logical and security reasons.

Whenever assembly elections are held in Jammu and Kashmir, they will be the first since the repeal of most provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution in August 2019 and the division of the erstwhile state into two union territories. The election process in Jammu and Kashmir usually lasts for a month. After the delimitation exercise, the number of assembly seats in the Union Territory has increased from 83 to 90. This does not include the seats allotted to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). In December, the Supreme Court directed the Election Commission to conduct assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir by September 30.

Opposition should provide evidence of efforts to influence the election process: Chief Election Commissioner Kumar
Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar on Monday challenged the opposition to share evidence of allegations that returning officers and district magistrates were influenced to vitiate the electoral process so that the Commission can take action against them.

Kumar said in a press conference that the opposition should also tell the commission about those who are trying to influence the election process before the counting of votes begins. Election Commissioners Gyanesh Kumar and S.S. Sandhu were also present with him in the press conference. Kumar said, “You cannot bring everyone under suspicion by spreading rumors.” Taking a dig at the opposition, he said that the commission had made preparations to deal with any foreign attempt to influence the election process, but these allegations have come from within the country itself.

Taking objection to the allegations of influencing the District Magistrates, the Chief Election Commissioner said, “Those making the allegations should tell which District Magistrate was influenced and we will punish them. They should tell us before the counting process begins.” Congress leader Jairam Ramesh had claimed that Home Minister Amit Shah was calling District Magistrates or Collectors and was “openly” threatening them.

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