Civil Society Groups Launch Vigilance Campaign Ahead of Lok Sabha Vote Counting; reject Exit Polls


By Anwarulhaq Baig
New Delhi:
In a significant move ahead of the Lok Sabha polls counting, a coalition of civil society groups, retired bureaucrats, intellectuals, activists, and leaders from the Kisan (farmer) movements, under the banner of “People’s Movements, Community Organizations, and Civil Society” have initiated a civil society vigilance campaign aimed at closely monitoring the vote counting process and the subsequent transfer of power.

The campaign, launched in major metro cities including Delhi, Bangalore, and Mumbai amid a growing atmosphere of political tension, carries the resolute slogan “Voters’ Will Must Prevail, and voiced strong opposition to what they describe as premature and potentially misleading media projections that suggest a clear majority for the BJP-led NDA. The civil society groups assert that such projections could undermine the integrity of the democratic process and erode public trust. According to them, their mission is to uphold the sanctity of the electoral process and ensure that the voters’ will prevails.

Addressing a press conference held this evening at the Press Club of India in the national capital, renowned activist Nadeem Khan, one of the organizers, declared their mission: to prevent any attempts at vote theft (“Vote ki Chori”) and the theft of the people’s mandate (“public mandate ki chori”).

Speaking about the aims and objectives of this civil society coalition, Khan informed the media that their main goal is to prevent fascist forces from coming to power, to stop malpractices and manipulation in the elections, and to increase voter turnout by encouraging as many people as possible to cast their votes. He highlighted their efforts, starting with voter registration camps conducted across the country, aimed at ensuring a high polling percentage.

Khan expressed disappointment with the Election Commission of India (ECI), noting that the ECI itself admitted in a press conference that the extreme heat made it a poor time for conducting elections. He expressed deep sorrow over the loss of many lives, including poll staff, due to the heatwave, and blamed these tragedies on the ECI’s disorganized planning. He pointed out that in Mirzapur, UP, over a dozen poll duty personnel lost their lives, and many people fell ill due to heat-related ailments, resulting in a low voter turnout.

Criticizing the ECI for allegedly being too loyal to the ruling dispensation, Khan suggested that the way the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was notified and the subsequent after three days election dates announced indicated a lack of independent planning by the ECI. He claimed that the ECI appeared to be following instructions from “higher authorities” rather than having its own vision or role.
Khan also targeted the mainstream or corporate media, calling them “Godi Media.” He alleged that over the past 7 to 8 years, the Prime Minister’s Office sent daily messages to the media dictating the topics for prime time. He criticized the media for neglecting important issues like employment and poverty in their prime time debates and questioned whether the exit polls were projected without the PMO’s permission.

He called the current exit polls an exercise in narrative-building, suggesting that if the NDA wins 300 seats or simple majority through malpractices and misuse of machinery, it would later justify that the exit polls already projecting 350 to 360 seats. He also alleged that exit polls had benefited Adani, a friend of the current ruling dispensation, by about two lakh crore rupees in the share market in a single day today.

Khan claimed that exit polls had been hastily projected, sometimes showing more seats for the BJP than the total number of seats available in certain places or states. He called on all parties and citizens to be vigilant against vote theft during the counting process. He announced a helpline functioning from Delhi and Bangalore, starting at 7 am tomorrow and continuing until midnight, to handle complaints of malpractices or misconducts in counting. The coalition plans to notify the ECI of such complaints, file cases against wrongdoers, and demand recounts if complaints are received in large numbers from a particular place, utilizing their team of lawyers, retired judges, and activists.
Helpline Numbers for North States:

+91 98704-19280
+91 79825-97191
Helpline Numbers for South States :
+91 97414-82975
+91 63667-05015

The helpline numbers will work between 7 AM to 12 Pm on June 4.

Regarding the theft of the mandate, Khan explained that this occurs when a candidate wins on a party ticket and then switches to another party. He asserted that the coalition will not allow such candidates to switch their loyalty, as people vote for them based on their party affiliation. He warned that they would protest and sit in peacefully in front of the houses of such candidates to ensure they represent the party they are elected for in Parliament.

Addressing the press conference, Syeda Sayydain Hameed, former chairperson of the National Commission for Women, vocally criticized the attacks on Muslims, highlighting how Muslims were targeted by BJP leaders during electioneering and how Hindu-Muslim unity was undermined. She also condemned Prime Minister Modi for using hate mongering during the elections.
Alerting the public to prevent any malpractices in counting, IFS (Retd.) Ashok K Sharma, a member of the Constitutional Conduct Group, sensitized citizens about their right to demand a recheck of at least 5% of EVM-VVPATs, a right granted by the Supreme Court. Sharma informed that over 120 civil organizations came together to raise concerns about potential vote manipulation on counting day. As part of the initiative called ‘Wake up Karnataka,’ activists, former bureaucrats, and experts held meetings to discuss holding the ECI accountable. Reading from the resolutions passed in these meetings, Sharma stated, “The entire period of this 18th Lok Sabha election, particularly after the declaration of polls and the operation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC), has been marked by unprecedented violations of the Constitution, Indian law, and the MCC, along with blatant instances of malpractices in electioneering. There is genuine apprehension and fear that these levels of structured manipulations will continue both during the counting process and thereafter, failing to respect the mandate of the people. We collectively express our deep concern at possibilities of manipulation in the counting process and the transition period that follows.”

Expressing shock over the developments related to the general elections and the upcoming results, human rights activist John Dayal criticized PM Modi and Amit Shah for using communal speeches, targeting a particular community, and polarizing the country. Calling Islamophobia a salient feature of these elections, the prominent Christian leader and former national head of the Catholic group cautioned all minorities, stating, “No Christian or Sikh is safe unless Muslims are safe.” Stressing the importance of protecting the constitution, which guarantees freedom, equality, and rights, Dayal denounced any party that seeks to polarize the people of the country.

Prominent leader of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, B.S. Rajewala, expressed displeasure that the ruling BJP-led NDA did not discuss its performance of its tenure or key issues facing the country, including jobs, unemployment, poverty, or farmers’ problems during poll campaigns. He also criticized the ruling BJP government for implementing preventive measures to dismantle the Kisan movement and prevent their peaceful protest rallies from entering the capital to address their issues recently.

Slamming the BJP for seemingly considering people of Punjab selectively and impartially as if they are not part of the country, Rajewala disclosed that in Punjab, people did not allow NDA candidates to visit most constituencies, places, and villages. Showing angers of farmers’, he added that this was the first time in his 81-year lifetime that he experienced poll candidates being prevented from visiting villages or constituencies. He warned that if malpractices were carried out with the people’s mandate, there would be no peace in the country.

Criticizing BJP leaders for the misuse of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and other central agencies against their opponents, as well as the ineffective role of the judiciary and the Election Commission of India (ECI), Rajewala also expressed shock over the low level of language and speeches used by Prime Minister Modi, who holds the highest and most respectable position in the country.

Targeting the ECI for not being impartial during polls, JNUSU President Dhananjay emphasized that the ECI should represent the people, not the ruling dispensation, in discharging their duties. He stated that if people want to clear their doubts about EVMs, the ECI should give them a chance and satisfy their concerns. However, he claimed that the ECI is leaning towards the government. He criticized the BJP for the 6.5 thousand crore rupees it received from electoral bonds, alleging that they used this money to influence the media and wanted to buy the mandate.

The civil society groups urge all patriots to protect the constitution, democracy, and the will of the people. They are committed to working as a constructive opposition for pro-people policies and the restoration of constitutional values, regardless of who comes to power.

During the press conference, a press release issued by the coalition which mentioned that in response to concerns over the conduct of the Lok Sabha elections, two significant consultative meetings were held in Bengaluru on May 21 and in Delhi on May 28, 2024. These meetings, organized by civil society representatives, brought together concerned citizens, leaders from various people’s movements, intellectuals, experts, advocates, and professionals. The meetings highlighted the absence of proper conduct by ECI and the ruling BJP party during the elections. After extensive deliberations, attendees unanimously decided to take measures to prevent any malpractice or manipulation during vote counting and the transfer of power.
Key resolutions from the meetings included:

  1. Struggle for Constitutional Protection: The election is viewed not just as a contest between political parties but as a struggle between the ruling party and citizens committed to protecting India’s constitution.
  2. Anti-BJP Sentiment: Coordinated efforts among social organizations and civil society movements have revealed a strong anti-BJP sentiment across the country, reflecting dissatisfaction with ten years of BJP rule.
  3. Concerns Over Vote Counting: There is significant concern about potential manipulation during vote counting. Participants are committed to taking legal measures to ensure fair counting and respect for the people’s mandate.
  4. Satyagraha Commitment: In the event of any fraudulent activity, citizens are prepared to engage in peaceful protest, following the principles of Satyagraha.
  5. Administrative Pressure: Efforts have begun to pressure the administration for impartial vote counting, including sending appeals to Returning Officers and letters to the President and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
  6. Opposition Coordination: Opposition party leaders have been contacted to ensure proper training and guidance for counting agents.
  7. Vigilant Voters Task Force: A Vigilant Voters Task Force (VVTF) will be formed in all Lok Sabha constituencies to monitor vote counting and ensure transparency.
  8. Potential for Close Contests: Ground information indicates many seats may be decided by narrow margins, increasing the importance of accurate vote counting.
  9. Exit Poll Criticism: The meetings condemned the methodology of exit polls, labeling them as exaggerated and factually incorrect.
    Signatories of the press release include N. Venkatesh (Dalit Conflict Committee), BT Lalithanayak (former minister and social activist), L.N. Mukundaraj (veteran literary person), Badagalpura Nagendra (Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha), Fr. Manohar Chandra Prasad, Fr. Arun Lewis (Wake up Karnataka), Ejaz Ahmed Bukhari (Karnataka Muslim Muttaida Mahaj), Tara Rao (environmental activist), and KL Ashok (Wake up Karnataka).


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