Daily Bulletin: EVM row dominates discourse ahead of counting, Naidu strives to unite Opposition front, ISRO launches RISAT-2B; day's top stories

FP Staff
A day ahead of counting, controversy over EVMs rages on as does the Opposition's efforts to consolidate an anti-NDA front, even as exit poll predicts a comfortable win for BJP, ISRO launched earth observation satellite RISAT-2B; day's top stories

BJP claims 36 allies backing it as Opposition bid to fortify anti-BJP front continues

Riding high on exit polls prediction, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah hosted a dinner party for their allies in National Capital. The BJP claimed that 36 allies have pledged support to the National Democratic Alliance in writing ahead of counting day, even as the Opposition's bid, primarily led by Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu continued to consolidate a non-NDA front.

Modi described the NDA as an alliance of India's hope and aspirations, saying it has become an "organic entity" like a family and is representative of the country's regional aspirations. The NDA leaders at the meeting, which was presided by Akali Dal patriarch Parkash Singh Badal, felicitated the prime minister and praised his council of ministers for their work.

The NDA meet comes in the backdrop of several efforts within the Opposition rank and file to consolidate a front to keep the BJP out of power. Leading such forays is the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief Naidu, who has taken it upon themselves to round up as many leaders as possible before results are out. This is despite exit polls predicting a walkover for the NDA and a perceived lethargy in the Congress camp, which has invited all non-BJP, non-NDA parties to Sonia Gandhi's residence on counting day.

From Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav to Arvind Kejriwal and HD Deve Gowda, Naidu has met over 21 Opposition party leaders since polling has concluded.

Reports of EVM rigging turn political discourse murky ahead of counting

The controversy over Electronic Voting Machine continues to rage on after Exit Polls predicted a decisive mandate in favour of the BJP-led NDA. Opposition parties Tuesday raised concerns over reports of alleged tampering of EVMs and asked the Election Commission to ensure transparency in counting. As protests erupted in Uttar Pradesh after videos of alleged movement and tampering of Electronic Voting Machines(EVMs) went viral on social media, a concerned former president Pranab Mukherjee also stepped in to say that the onus is on the EC to put all speculation around these machines to rest.

The BJP and NDA allies, however, held that the controversy was 'needless' and a mere attempt to discredit the poll panel by Opposition parties who are staring at a defeat. The prime minister expressed concern over the Opposition making "needless controversy" over electronic voting machines, the home minister said.

An ugly back and forth ensued in Bihar as well, with the opposition 'Mahagathbandhan' alleging that attempts were being made to manipulate Lok Sabha poll results in favour of the ruling NDA, and warned that "blood may spill on the streets" on account of "tremendous public anger". The BJP hit back, saying an impending defeat had made the opposition grand alliance desperate and its statement was tantamount to "provocation for an armed rebellion". Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar termed the allegations as "bogus" adding that the use of EVMs has brought about a lot of transparency in the electoral process.

Meanwhile, Chandrababu Naidu on Tuesday and JDS supremo HD Deve Gowda were in a late night huddle as part of his efforts to mobilise opposition parties on the controversy over alleged manipulation of EVMs. Confabulating with Gowda for over an hour late Tuesday night after a meeting of opposition parties in New Delhi on the EVM issue earlier in the day, Naidu said 23 parties were raising the issue and demanding transparency and accountability. "Earlier, even the BJP had opposed EVMs," he said. "In Uttar Pradesh, we are seeing EVMs in hotels and homes... strong rooms are being changed," Naidu alleged.

EC denies poll rigging allegations, says due process being followed ahead of counting

Although it dismissed allegations that the voting machines used in the Lok Sabha election were being switched with fresh ones ahead of counting of votes on 23 May, the Election Commission on Tuesday set up a 24-hour control room in Delhi to monitor complaints relating to EVMs. "The complaints related to storage issues at strongrooms, security of strongrooms, permissions to candidates to post their agents at strongrooms, CCTV monitoring, movement of any EVMs, and any complaints during counting related to EVMs can be informed at control room, number is 011-23052123 (with 5 hunting lines)," it said in a statement. Referring to the allegations and complaints, the commission earlier in the day said it would like to "emphatically and unambiguously" clarify that all such reports and allegations are "absolutely false and factually incorrect." The visuals on TV and social media "do not pertain to any EVMs used during the polls", it said.  In an earlier statement, the EC said, after the close of polls, all polled EVMs and VVPATs are brought under security cover to designated strongrooms, which are sealed with double locks in the presence of candidates and observers of the commission.

ISRO successfully launches earth observation satellite RISAT-2B

In a pre-dawn launch on Wednesday, Indian space agency ISRO scripted history by successfully launching earth observation satellite RISAT-2B that would enhance the country's surveillance capabilities among others.

As the 25-hour countdown which began Tuesday concluded, the agency's trusted workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C46) blasted off at 5.30 am from the first launch pad of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota on its 48th mission, carrying the 615 kg satellite.

The RISAT-2B (Radar Imaging Satellite-2B), meant for application in fields such as surveillance, agriculture, forestry and disaster management support, was released into the orbit around 15 minutes after the lift-off. It would replace the RISAT-2, which was successfully launched in 2009.

The RISAT-2B is equipped with a synthetic aperture radar that can take pictures of the earth during day and night, and also under cloudy conditions. With a mission life of five years, the satellite would also be used for military surveillance, ISRO sources told PTI. The RISAT-2 has been actively used by India to monitor activities in camps across the border in Pakistan to thwart infiltration bids by terrorists.

IL&FS crisis: RBI to create specialised cadre for regulation of banks, NBFCs

A specialised cadre will be created within the Reserve Bank for supervision and regulation of financial institutions, including banks and NBFCs, the RBI said. This move assumes significance at a time when non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) are facing severe liquidity crunch in the wake of IL&FS crisis. The decision to create a specialised supervisory and regulatory cadre within the RBI was taken at the meeting of the Central Board of the apex bank headed by Governor Shaktikanta Das. It was 576th meeting of the RBI Central Board.

Apple updates MacBook Pro processors and keyboard

Apple has made hardware improvements to its 13-inch and 15-inch models of the MacBook Pro with Touch bar. The company has brought 8-gen Intel core i9 octa-core processors. Apart from that, the company is also changing the controversial butterfly keyboard to make it more durable.

Also See: Exit poll results indicate Narendra Modi-helmed NDA set to return in 2019, UPA may struggle to touch 140 seats

Exit polls predict big win for BJP and allies in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh; Congress unlikely to reach double digits

Shashi Tharoor gives example of Australian elections where all 56 exit polls were wrong, says 'wait for real results'

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