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Concerned over reports of alleged tampering of people’s mandate: Pranab Mukherjee

The Congress and other Opposition parties have accused the EC of inaction and bias in the conduct of these polls

By Sanjay K. Jha in New Delhi
  • Published 22.05.19, 3:23 AM
  • Updated 22.05.19, 3:23 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
Pranab Mukherjee after paying tribute to Rajiv Gandhi on his death anniversary in New Delhi Tuesday. (PTI)

Former President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday expressed concern about alleged tampering of the people’s mandate, hours after he had hailed the Election Commission for conducting a “perfect” election.

Sources close to the former President said Mukherjee’s views had been misinterpreted earlier. The difference in between his speech on Monday evening and statement on Tuesday was stark.

There was extreme unease in the Opposition camp and outrage on social media after Mukherjee said at a book release on Monday: “If we want to strengthen institutions, we have to keep in mind that institutions are serving well in this country, and if democracy has succeeded, it’s largely due to the perfect conduct of elections by all Election Commissioners, starting from Sukumar Sen to the present Election Commissioners. All are appointed by the executive and they are doing their job well. You can’t criticise them. It was perfect conduct of the elections.”

He added: “Institutions are fine, and these institutions are built over the years. I do believe only a bad workman quarrels with his tools. A good workman knows how to utilise these tools.”

The Congress and other Opposition parties have accused the EC of inaction and bias in the conduct of these polls.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi had tweeted on Sunday: “From electoral bonds and EVMs to manipulating the election schedule, NaMo TV, Modi’s Army and now the drama in Kedarnath; the Election Commission’s capitulation before Mr Modi and his gang is obvious to all Indians. The EC used to be feared & respected. Not anymore.”

Leaders of 22 Opposition parties are crying themselves hoarse about “illegal” movement of EVMs in different parts of the country and for proper counting and matching of votes with VVPAT slips.

Frustrated by the inadequate response of the EC, almost every Opposition leader has called upon party workers guard the strongrooms themselves. These leaders suspect the exit polls were deliberately inflated to legitimise or facilitate mischief during counting.

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi issued an appeal to party workers on Tuesday saying: “Don’t pay attention to rumours and exit polls and keep vigil at strongrooms and counting centres. Don’t get disheartened by exit polls. These are rumours meant to demoralise you. Your alertness is all the more important in this atmosphere….”

Amid anger in the Opposition camp, Mukherjee issued a statement on Tuesday afternoon: “I am concerned at reports of alleged tampering of voters’ verdict. The safety and security of EVMs which are in the custody of ECI is the responsibility of the commission.”

It added: “There can be no room for speculations that challenge the very basis of our democracy. People’s mandate is sacrosanct and has to be above any iota of reasonable doubt. A firm believer in our institutions, it is my considered opinion that it is the workmen who decide how the institutional tools perform. The onus of ensuring institutional integrity in this case lies with the Election Commission of India. They must do so and put all speculations to rest.”

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