Grand Alliance declares Tejashwi its leader;alleges manipulation in counting of votes

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(With fresh inputs) Patna, Nov 12 (PTI) The opposition Grand Alliance on Thursday unanimously declared RJDs Tejashwi Yadav as the leader of the five-party formation and exhorted him to take up the issue of alleged bungling in counting of votes which they blamed for the defeat of their coalition.

The 31-year-old former Deputy CM, who led the election campaign as the Chief Ministerial candidate, received the support of all 109 newly elected MLAs of his own party besides Congress, CPI(ML), CPI and CPI(M), at a meeting that took place at the residence of former Chief Minister Rabri Devi.

'Tejashwi Yadav is aware of the anomalies that took place in counting. He saw it in his own assembly segment. The Election Commission has acted like an instrument of ruling dispensation. We urge him to carry the battle forward', CPI state secretary Ram Naresh Pandey said.

Yadav said 'it was indeed strange that counting was over in my seat Raghopur, where I had got an unassailable lead of more than 35,000 votes, at around 3 P.M. Still, they did not formally declare the results till late in the night'.

He also claimed 'I had a handsome lead even in votes cast by postal ballots. Our commitment to one rank one pension had struck a chord with servicemen. Perhaps this enervated the ruling dispensation.

'And the polling officials everywhere obliged by indulging in irregular practices like counting postal ballots at the end, instead of in the beginning, and even invalidating these on a large scale.

CPI(M) state secretary Awadhesh said 'our full support is with Tejashwi Yadav for taking forward this fight. We would also like him to ensure that despite our not winning power the new government is compelled to fulfill all the promises that we had made since these are the very issues concerning the people'.

Yadav said he proposed to undertake a thanks giving tour of the state 'dhanyawad yatra' during which he would gauge the public mood with respect to the poll outcome that went contrary to expectations and 'act as per their wishes'.

'I will also assure the people that we are not going to allow the NDA to be complacent about the victory. They will have to ensure that the young are provided jobs, which they too promised after we stole a march on the issue. If they fail, there will be a mass agitation', Yadav, the leader of the opposition in the outgoing assembly, said.

CPI(ML) politburo member Kavita Krishnan, whose party came up with a surprising performance, winning 12 of the 19 seats it contested, said all candidates who felt they have been wronged 'have been asked to write to respective Returning Officers to provide with the CCTV footage of the counting process.

'If anything is found amiss, a recounting will be requested. And ff the demands are not met, further course of action will be decided.

'A few months ago, it commonly believed that the NDA would win the polls. But once the elections begun, we gained so much of momentum which was acknowledged by poll pundits from far and wide. In such a backdrop, the results indeed give rise to suspicions', she added.

The Election Commission, meanwhile, seemed uneasy over the controversy and shared with the media communications whereby it had refused to hold recounting on the ground of candidates or their representatives 'raising no objections' while counting took place.

Interestingly, these included constituencies where the aggrieved candidates were from the NDA as well as the Grand Alliance.

Chief Electoral Officer H R Srinivas told reporters that there were 11 assembly seats where the victory margin was less than 1000 votes, candidates or election agents had sought 'recounting' of votes in six constituencies.

The Returning Officers have passed 'reasoned order' rejecting the pleas for recounting in the five seats as margin of victory was more than the rejected postal ballots.

However, pleas for Hilsa constituency where the victory margin was only 12 votes and the number of rejected postal ballots was 182, was accepted and the recounting was done.

However, Tejashwi Yadav said he would press for recounting of 'at least postal ballot votes in all those constituencies where the margin of victory is very small.

Postal ballots are supposed to be preserved for 45 days after counting. There must be a video recording so that any irregularity in invalidation of ballots is caught right away'.

To a query from journalists, he replied 'we will not shy away from moving the court if all other options are exhausted and do not bring justice'.

Congress leader Akhilesh Prasad Singh suggested that the young RJD leader also approach the Governor on the issue.

'You must visit Raj Bhavan. You have our full support.

None of us is willing to take this lying down', he said.

Yadav also remarked that the NDA in Bihar has 'a history of hijacking popular mandate, grabbing power through the back door', referring to the dramatic realignment of July, 2017.

He also dismissed claims by NDA leaders that the alliance would have fared even better but for division of votes by a rebellious LJP.

'That is just an excuse. Our prospects were similarly damaged in many seats by AIMIM (Owaisis party) which directly benefited the BJP', Yadav remarked. PTI NAC SNS SNS