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Amit Malviya Announces Karnataka Dates Before EC. When Questioned, Cites Times Now, Deletes Tweet

The Election Commission's credibility suffered yet another blow today

Outrage ensued on social media this morning after users pointed out that the BJP’s IT cell head, Amit Malviya, had tweeted out a schedule for the Karnataka assembly elections before the Election Commission’s announcement.

When Malviya was asked by CNN News 18‘s Zakka Jacob on how he got the dates, he tweeted again, asking the anchor to look to rival channel Times Now, which had put out the same information. It is significant to note that Malviya did not attribute his information to Times Now in his since deleted tweet. Also, if he was relying on the news channel for information there was no reason to delete his own tweet.

Karnataka’s 224 seats go to polls on May 12 with counting to take place three days later, on May 15, the EC later clarified.

However, what raises serious questions is how did members of the ruling party’s IT cell happen to announce the dates for the elections in Karnataka before the Election Commission itself? The matter once again raises questions of the independence of the Election Commission.

When journalists asked Chief Election Commissioner O.P. Rawat that the dates had already been ‘leaked’ on social media, he said that “certain things may have leaked for which the EC will take appropriate action.”

Later, after the CEC had announced the correct dates, he was quick to point out that the date for counting that the journalists had earlier mentioned was false.

When later asked about the date of polling, which Malviya and Times Now had correctly put out, he said that there will be an investigation into the matter. “Let the facts come out in the investigation and then we will decide on what to do. It will be investigated. Be assured that actions legally and administratively befitting will be taken,” he said.

NDTV reports that former cricketer and suspended BJP legislator Kirti Azad referred to Malviya as the ‘Steve Smith’ of the BJP, referring to the ex-Australian cricket captain’s involvement in the recent ball-tampering row.

Social media users also pointed out that the Zuber Patel of the Gujarat Congress IT Cell, and Congress social media in-charge from Karnataka had also tweeted out the same dates before the EC could announce them.

Prior knowledge or an ability to influence dates allows for parties to sabotage electoral processes. Date of elections are significant in view of the Model Code of Conduct, and its prior knowledge would allow political parties to plan out election strategies better, to work and re-work their proposed policies

It is critical that the EC acts to eliminate any interference and leakages in its processes while also securing the data and information at its disposal. The election watchdog must work to preserve the sanctity of democratic processes and to restore the trust citizens have in them.

Malviya and Times Now both deleted their tweets later, and the latter replaced it with a more somber, though correct version.

 

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala was scathing of the EC’s role in the matter, tweeting: “BJP becomes the ‘Super Election Commission’ as they announce poll dates for Karnataka even before the EC. Credibility of EC is on test. Will EC now issue notice to BJP President, Amit Shah & register an FIR against BJP IT Head for leaking EC’s confidential information?”

 

“It is a huge embarrassment for the Election Commission. The EC should answer how he got to know about the date. How can such a thing happen and the BJP announces the date when only the EC has the mandate to conduct free and fair polls,” CPI National Secretary D Raja said.

“I hope that our democracy is not so weak, otherwise the BJP will start announcing the election results also,” Raja added.

Meanwhile, the BJP told the Election Commission today that Malviya’s tweet was based on a news channel’s report and a state Congress office-bearer had also tweeted about it. A party delegation led by Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi visited the EC and later told reporters that Malviya should not have tweeted. He said that Malviya’s tweet was based on a news channel report and he had no intention to undermine the EC’s authority.

The Election Commission does find itself in more than a quandry after this latest lapse. In October 2017, the EC came under severe criticism from Oppositition parties after it delayed the announcement for the poll dates in Gujarat. In both 2007 and 2012, the EC had announced polling dates for Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh on the same day, something that didn’t happen the last time around. This News 18 article lists the sops that the BJP government announced for the two states after the announcement for polls was postponed.

This latest episode forms part of a list that will make sure the Election Commission will be watched more keenly, now more than ever.

With PTI Inputs

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