#MadhyaPradeshElections2018: What explains the delay in counting?

The final result came out only this morning, EC officials explain what took them so long.

ByPrateek Goyal
#MadhyaPradeshElections2018: What explains the delay in counting?
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Party offices in Madhya Pradesh were witness to much drama yesterday as the Election Commission did not declare the final state Assembly results till today morning. The first press conference of the Election Commision was held at 8 am yesterday in Bhopal. State Chief Electoral Officer VL Kantarao gave the initial trends after two rounds of counting. As per the figures given by Kantarao, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was leading in 102 seats, Congress in 112 and other parties were leading in 16 seats.

The second press conference of the commission was scheduled for 5 pm but got delayed by two hours since the final figures were not ready. Even at 7.30 pm, it provided only a few declared and trending figures. BJP was declared winner on 11 seats, Congress on 8 seats whereas an Independent won one seat.

As for trends, BJP was leading in 109 seats, Congress in 113, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in two seats, Gondwana Gantantra Party (GGP) in 1 seat, Samajwadi Party (SP) in one seat and Independents at four seats.

At the time of the 7.30 p.m press conference, counting in 102 seats had been completed and it was announced that the counting in remaining seats would be completed by 10 p.m, after which the results would be declared around midnight.

When questioned about the delay in election results Kantarao said, “We have to hand over the photocopy of counting results after every round to agents. Besides that, we also to hand over tabulation sheets to candidates after every round. There are constituencies in which there are up to 30 candidates and to each candidate we have to handover tabulation sheets, which is time-consuming. We are doing everything as per the procedure.”

When questioned whether handing of tabulation sheets to candidates in previous elections delayed results, the Chief Electoral Officer did not respond.

It is significant that a day before the counting, it was revealed by the State Election Commission that presiding officers at 144 polling booths in 62 Assembly seats had not cleared the mock poll data from the EVMs before the actual voting. 

The matter was reported to the ECI on December 7 after which it ordered on December 10 that VVPAT slips should be counted at these 144 booths.

According to the letter of ECI, presiding officers at 144 booths had not carried out close result clear (CRC) after the mock polls which were conducted before the actual voting on 28 November. ECI issued an order that the counting at these 144 polling booths will be conducted by counting the VVPAT slips. Which would be an addition to the counting of VVPAT slips of irregularly selected machines in each and every constituency.

On the day of counting, the State Election Commission informed that the figure of such polling booths where CRC had not been removed after mock polls have increased to 175 across the state.

A nail-biting battle

“Jai jai Kamal Nath” and “Shrimant (Jyotiraditya Scindia) zindabad” were the slogans that echoed in the office of Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee on Tuesday morning in Bhopal after just two rounds of counting of votes across Madhya Pradesh.

Supporters of Nath and Scindia with the banners of their respective leaders in hand not only raised slogans at the top of their voices but indulged in a subtle form of lobbying for their respective leaders as chief minister in the MPCC office premises.

These enthusiastic supporters obviously had no idea that it was very early in the day for them to start the celebration as the results of the election were not clear till this morning owing to the neck-to-neck fight between the Bharatiya Janata Party and Indian National Congress in Madhya Pradesh, which now awaits its new government.

The whole day, the magic figure of 115 to form the government seemed within grasp of each of the parties at different junctures, with the Congress falling short of one mark at 114. One or the other party was leading, trailing or drawing with the other throughout the day as after every round of counting, the figure of seats fluctuated within a thin margin of 5-8 seats.

However, the possibility of falling short of the magic number did not dampen the spirits of Congress supporters who while engaging in early celebrations, declared their victory even before the final results.

Jagdish Sohane, General Secretary of the Congress party in neighbouring Vidisha district, was present during the counting at the MPCC office. Talking to Newslaundry in the morning (after just two rounds of counting) he said, “Government of the Congress is forming in Madhya Pradesh. We are coming in majority and will win at least 117 seats. It’s not early to say that we are winning and all rounds have been completed and Jyotiraditya Scindia will become the chief minister.”

Senior Congress leader and media in-charge of Congress party during elections Shobha Ojha avoided making a clear statement on who will become the CM in case her party got a clear majority. She said, “We have fought the elections as a party and both our leaders (Nath and Scindia) stated in the past that they have fought elections not to become chief minister but to defeat BJP.”

Unlike the spirited atmosphere at MPCC, there were no ripples of excitement at the BJP headquarters in Bhopal. A few supporters sat in the premises calmly watching the coverage on TV.

Spokesperson of the Madhya Pradesh BJP Hidayatullah Shaikh termed the absence of celebration at BJP office as a sign of political maturity. He said, “Raising slogans against Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan after just four rounds of counting is ridiculous. These three big men of the Congress — Kamal Nath, Digvijay Singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia — reached the MPCC office even before the party workers. So it was necessary for Congress party workers to reach party office or it will have irked these raja-maharajas. Congress party workers are fighting among themselves to project their respective leaders as chief minister. They are declaring themselves as winners after just 2-4 rounds of counting. Despite being in power for the last three terms, we are waiting for the final results and have not indulged in any kind of celebrations as we are politically mature unlike the Congress party.”

He pointed out that each round is taking 45 minutes as the district collector has to hand over counting details to all candidates. “Till now (around 2 pm) only 6-7 rounds have taken place and there are many more to come. We are sure that people are going to vote for Shivraj Singhji,” Shaikh concluded.

The mood at the BJP office became cheerful around 3.30 pm when a few supporters arrived there with sweets and started distributing them to their colleagues. They got together and then started raising slogans in support of Shivraj Singh Chouhan and BJP.

Surendra Patel, a BJP supporter said, “Our party workers were quiet perhaps because they were in some kind of dilemma, but I was pretty sure that our party is going to win. Till now we are leading on 115 seats and will surely make the government in Madhya Pradesh for the fourth time.” As it turned out, the party ended up with 109 seats, six short of the winning mark.

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