The Wire
The Wire Staff
New Delhi

Former Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Qureshi has said it is for the Election Commission to explain why so much time is being taken to finalise the votes polled data.

There should be no reasons for delay in the voter turnout data as it is available in real time, according to former Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) S.Y. Qureshi, who is well versed with how data flows into the election system. Qureshi was the commission’s chief when EVMs were introduced to ‘speed up’ the election process and make data around it public faster than before.

Adding to the massive uproar caused by the Election Commission’s refusal to supply real voter numbers in 2024 elections, the EC instead, has been supplying a final set of percentages, vastly in excess of what has been done on the night of the polling. For phase 1, it took the EC 11 days, and four days each for three subsequent phases, to publish the final numbers.

Qureshi told Dainik Bhaskar, “There is no reason for delays in getting voter data. This data is in the system in real time.” He added, “within five minutes of the polling ending, all information is available. Now, in this situation, the Election Commission is accountable for why so much time is being taken to finalise the data.”

He also said, “The Election Commission must give full information about why this gap or lack of coordination (visangati) is there. The commission must explain why this is happening. For transparency in the electoral process, all questions arising in the minds of people have to be answered.”

As per a Times Insight Group analysis, the revised percentages would translate to “an increase in 1.07 crore” voters across 379 constituencies for which votes have already been cast. The average rise per constituency is “28,000 votes.” The analysis has been carried out between numbers given by the EC on the same day as the polling in each phase and then the final numbers made available by the Commission. 

The Supreme Court on May 17  asked the EC why it was not supplying the total numbers of votes, as it has always done. A bench headed by chief justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud has given seven days for the poll panel to file its response and posted the matter for hearing on May 24, which is a day before the sixth, or second last phase of polling.

The Hindustan Times reported that the hearing took place on the last working day before the court’s vacation and resumed at 6 pm. The Supreme Court asked the EC, “On what basis do you disclose the tentative voting percentage. Is it based on Form 17C? What is the difficulty of putting this on website?”

Advocate Prashant Bhushan said that all polling officers in election booths are mandatorily required to fill up Form 17C and submit to the returning officer. This form has the actual figures of voting which needs to be uploaded by EC, he argued.

EC’s counsel said in response that after polling is completed, the returning officer collects data from the entire constituency, which takes time. This, as there are some constituencies at far flung places and there are others where re-polling has been ordered.

MPs like Trinamool Congress’s Mahua Mitra too have contended that the data is available nearly immediately.

Former additional secretary home affairs Sanjeev Gupta said, “Can the [Election Comission] not embarrass themselves any further? I reiterate that Form 17C data of voters is entered boothwise in ECI’s ENCORE web based software. Data is available with them at the press of a button. How can they then say that they don’t have actual numbers of votes cast? 

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