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Surprised that EC responded to my INDIA bloc letter but ignored complaints I raised before it: Kharge

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New Delhi, May 11 (PTI) Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge on Saturday said it is surprising that the Election Commission chose to respond to a letter he wrote to INDIA bloc leaders but ignored several other complaints he raised directly to it.

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In a letter addressed to the CEC and other election commissioners, he said the poll panel is showing no urgency in dealing with "blatantly communal and casteist" statements being made by leaders of the ruling party and this is puzzling.

In response to the letter written by Kharge to INDIA bloc leaders expressing concerns over EC's delay in releasing voter turnout figures for first two phases of polls, the Commission had on Friday called it an attempt to push a biased narrative under the guise of seeking clarifications.

Kharge, in his response, said it was an open letter clearly addressed to the alliance partners and not to the Commission.

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"It is surprising that the Election Commission of India wanted to respond to this letter while ignoring several other complaints given directly to it. I have certain misgivings about the language of the letter, but I will not press on that issue as I understand the pressures they are working under," Kharge said in his letter sent to the EC on Saturday.

He said the EC letter on the one hand says the Commission respects citizens' right to ask questions and on the other hand, "threatens citizens in the form of an advise to exercise caution".

"I am happy that the Commission understands that it has the mandate to conduct smooth, free and fair elections under the constitution. However, the lack of urgency shown by the Commission in taking action against blatantly communal and casteist statements being made by the leaders of the ruling party that vitiates the electoral process seems puzzling," Kharge said.

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The Congress chief also said he is puzzled by the need to write that the Commission is "not legally bound to publish any voter turnout data at aggregate level of a constituency or state", even though it is factual.

"I am sure many voters of our country would be surprised too. Many voters who are deeply interested in the elections would also like to see the absolute number of votes polled to be put out in the public domain by the Commission directly," he said.

The Election Commission in its statement had dubbed Kharge's letter an "aggression on the vitals of live conduct of elections".

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In a five-page response with a series of annexures, the poll panel rejected charges of mismanagement and delay in the release of voter turnout data in the first two phases of the Lok Sabha elections and termed Kharge's allegations "unwarranted", "without facts" and "reflective of a biased and deliberate attempt to spread confusion".

In his letter to INDIA bloc leaders, Kharge had said that "apart from the delay, the voter turnout data released by the Commission does not mention crucial yet related figures, such as the votes polled in each parliamentary constituency and in the respective assembly constituencies".

He also said if the voter turnout data was published within 24 hours of voting along with the crucial figures, then people would have known if the increase of "5 per cent" had been witnessed across constituencies or only in constituencies where the ruling regime had not performed well in the 2019 elections.

Opposition leaders had also met the EC top brass on Friday and raised the issue of voter turnout figures and the complaints given by them on various incidents of model code violation by ruling party leaders. PTI AO ZMN

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