Is the Kerala Election Commission shifting its blame on others to evade allegations of bias?

On one side, the EC is claiming that the opposition’s plea came at the 11th hour, but the opposition reached the court only after the EC failed to take notice despite repeated communications
Is the Kerala Election Commission shifting its blame on others to evade allegations of bias?

Welcoming the Kerala High Court interim order asking Election Commission to ensure double votes are not the case, Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala said that the double votes had been CPM’s planned strategy to polls fake votes. Earlier today, in an interim order filed on Ramesh’s plea, the HC asked the Election Commission to make sure that no double votes are cast, as well as an explanation on why the matter couldn’t be handled. Chief Electoral Officer Tikaram Meena said that all measures would be taken to enforce the decision.

Ramesh Chennithala told the Court that they had used their software to unearth the duplicate and double votes within the lists. He had asked why the Election Commission was unable to do so despite half the work already completed. Moreover, the EC also confirmed the Opposition Leaders claims that there were over four lakh double votes across the state. The petitioner alleged that the Commission did not take action despite pointing out the matter. However, the EC affidavit said that Ramesh Chennithala’s plea came at the 11th hour and that he didn’t use the opportunity to correct and point out the mistakes in the list.

While the commission claims that all measures would be taken to avoid the issue, they also add that the list cannot be changed until after the assembly elections. Interestingly, the EC seems to be shifting the blame and evading the situation. On one side, they are claiming that the opposition’s plea came at the 11th hour, but the opposition reached the court only after the EC failed to take notice despite repeated communications. Moreover, despite rooting out voter fraud being one of EC’s primary duties, they not only failed in the task but had to receive information and support from the Opposition Leader and his team.

Ramesh Chennithala also said that the left front won the local body elections through fraudulent votes. “We moved with the legal action based on this evidence of lakhs of double votes, which took us more than seven months to discover. The Court has considered the matter to be grave, and we welcome the Court’s order,” he said, adding that there are fraudulent practises prevailing in postal ballots as well. He said that names of dead people and unregistered people are also available on the ballot, adding that the police association was interfering in this illegally.

On the other side, the Election Commission has presented a very interesting argument. While they told the Court that they would ensure no double votes are cast, they also added that since the election notification was issued, the Courts have no say in the matter. On the other hand, they did not raise the same argument when the Kerala High Court stayed the EC decision to delay the release of the special rice kits to non-priority ration cardholders ahead of the Assembly elections.

In that matter, the opposition parties had claimed that the state government deliberately delayed the kits for eight months to deliver it now, ahead of the elections, “to convert people’s poverty into vote share”. The Court noted that the decision to distribute the special rice was taken on February 4 before the election notification and stressed that the auctions for the rice from the Food Corporation of India have already been carried out for Rs 83.34 Crore.

In the interim order, the HC said that it is not easy for the state government to approach the Election Commission with a fresh proposal seeking sanction, as the payments have to be made before March 31, 2021. However, the Court noted that the distribution of rice should strictly adhere to the Model Code of Conduct. Meanwhile, the EC is yet to claim that the Court has no say in it since the notification has been issued, but political experts raise suspicion over the lack of such an argument.

Following the voter issues, the Central Election Commission sought an explanation from the state election officer on the issue of fraudulent voting in Kerala. The commission said the report should be submitted by March 31, the report would be examined and further action would be taken.

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