Patna: There has been a sharp surge in EVM tampering allegations levelled by the opposition parties at Centre and in different states ever since the exit polls predicted a massive win for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the Lok Sabha elections.
The latest to join this spree of allegations is Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RSLP) leader Upendra Kushwaha, who threatened the BJP of “bloodshed” if it attempted to tamper the EVMs and manipulate the election results.
Addressing a joined press conference in Patna on Tuesday, Kushwaha said, “Vote ki raksha ke liye hathiyar bhi uthana pade toh uthaiye (If need be, take up arms to protect the voting machines).”
“Earlier, we used to hear about booth loot. This time, it is suspected that attempts may be made to loot the results. These could be through manipulation of the EVMs or any other measures at the counting centres. The leaders of the NDA are hereby warned not to indulge in such a misadventure. There is tremendous public anger and blood may spill on the streets, for which we shall not be held responsible,” Kushwaha told reporters.
Although Election commission has dismissed these allegations, opposition parties continue to claim that attempts were made to manipulate the poll results in favour of the ruling NDA. Kushwaha’s statement has only heightened this sentiment, creating ripples in the political circles of Patna.
Bihar BJP president Nitya Nand Rai, who is contesting against Kushwaha from Ujiyarpur Lok Sabha seat, told News 18 that Kushwaha’s remarks are reflective of his criminal mindset, “He is losing both the seats so has started targeting constitutional institutions of the country. He has tried to incite people into taking up arms and this points at his criminal mindset.”
“All these allegations shows the opposition parties’ current state of mind, which is that of utmost despair in the wake of an impending defeat. If Kushwaha was so confident of his victory, why did he choose to contest from two seats?”
Rai further alleged that RSLP and grand alliance are taking the refuge of false allegations as a ploy to save their face as “they don’t know to accept defeat gracefully.”
Kushwaha contested on two seats – from Karakat against Mahabali Singh of the JD(U) and from Ujiyarpur against BJP’s Nitya Nand Rai.
Kushwaha quit the NDA last year after holding a ministerial berth in Narendra Modi cabinet for more than four years and his party was allocated four Lok Sabha seats by the grand alliance in Bihar.
“Those who are appealing to the supporters to take up weapons against democratic institutions should know that gone are the days of jungle raj. Here, law and order are sacrosanct and no one is allowed to take law into their own hands,” said JD (U) spokesperson Neeraj Kumar.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to entertain yet another PIL seeking 100% VVPAT verification during the counting scheduled for May 23, dismissing it as a “nuisance” it cannot keep entertaining. The opposition parties had moved the court seeking VVPAT verification in 25% or 33% polling stations in every assembly segment of a Lok Sabha constituency, if not 50% or 100%. That was also rejected.
“The highest court in the country has rejected the demand of 21 political parties who had asked for increasing the count for the verification of VVPAT slips with EVM. Today, leaders of the opposition parties submitted a memorandum before the Election Commission, requesting that the verification of VVPAT slips of randomly identified (05) polling stations be done prior to the initiation of counting of votes and not after the completion of last round of counting. What else do they want?” Kumar asked.
Confused and worried after the exit polls predictions, the RLSP knows that it will find it difficult to open an account in elections and it will impact its prospects in the Bihar assembly elections to be held in 2020. Political Pundits are also of the opinion that Kushwaha’s outburst is an indicator of his poor performance and he seems to have lost the plot.
Sources in the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) believe that an alliance with the RLSP did not prove beneficial on ground as the party had not been able to translate its vote share to grand alliance. The purpose of allocating four seats to RLSP was to win the support of Kushwaha community (around 8 percent) and keep it away from the influence of Nitish Kumar. But this exercise proved futile, the sources said.
Although senior RJD leader Ramchandra Poorve was present at the press conference where Kushwaha spoke of “bloodbath” his party has distanced itself from the statement.
“We don’t approve resorting to violence. Our weapon is the support of people and we will take up the cause with their support without resorting to violence,” RJD spokesman Bhai Virendra told News 18.
Clearly, Kushwaha’s statement is being seen in the light of the exit poll predictions where NDA has been projected to win 32 to 38 seats. If the results on May 23 match the exit poll projections, it would put the future of Kushwaha and his party in the doldrums.
Ironically, the joint press conference was attended by the president of Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee, Madan Mohan Jha, whose party claims to be the torchbearer of non-violence in the country.