Tuesday, 28 June, 2022
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Arnab with EC, Rajdeep wants ‘hard’ proof on EVMs, & Yogendra Yadav says no ‘rigged’ results

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Prime Time

Grim protests by opposition parties, Wednesday, on EVM movements was neatly juxtaposed with the quietly celebratory mood at the NDA meeting and dinner — both in Delhi.

In evening, most news channels took on the Opposition on the EVMs —“India with EC” declared Republic. And do watch the video clip here, of anchor Arnab Goswami losing his cool and temper with the Opposition.

A few continued to mine their exit polls for more information, CNN News18 analysed the Muslim vote and found support for BJP had increased within the community — every eighth or ninth Muslim voted BJP, it claimed.

“Are Muslim women looking to Modi?” wondered anchor Bhupendra Chaubey.

Journalist Sharath Pradhan challenged the assumption: during his extensive groundwork “not one Muslim woman” said she would vote for Modi.

India Today: Anchor Rajdeep Sardesai, visibly annoyed at the Opposition’s claims on EVM tampering, ticked off Congress panelist, Mohammad Khan.

“You cannot undermine” the democratic process this way, “you are fishing in troubled waters”, he said. “You have to provide hard evidence…”

Khan insisted that the Opposition and Congress had a strong case and were following the correct procedure by asking the EC to follow due process with regard to the EVMs. Congress had submitted 57 petitions to EC, he said and claimed that the “law” was not being followed.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s Amit Malviya said since the exit polls indicated a sweeping NDA victory the Opposition had a “trust deficit” in the EC. “Whatever EC decides is acceptable to us,” he added, piously. He advised the Congress to “rush to the courts” Wednesday night itself, “like they did in the Afzal Guru case…” and seek relief.

Khan ignored this Afzal Guru insinuation, but said his party would not go to the courts — it would knock on the EC’s door since that was the correct procedure to follow.

Mirror Now: Yogendra Yadav urged the Election Commission to “go out of your way to examine complaints” in order to retain the faith of all parties in the institution of the EC.

Anchor Faye D’Souza asked Congress spokesperson why the party doubted the system now and not during last December’s assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

“(Then) you did not find trucks being moved…” replied Ambiben Yagnik

D’Souza said elections in India always witnessed allegations of tampering with the voting and vote counting procedures.

“Those were fringe allegations,” explained Yogendra Yadav. Now there are “serious questions”. However, he added that he did not think 23 May would present a “rigged result”.

BJP’s Raman Malik was contemptuous of the Opposition. Their allegations merely showed up the Opposition, and its inability to lose “gracefully”.

He then asked a pertinent question: if on 23 May, “it is otherwise” (and the results are very different from the exit poll tallies), will the Opposition continue with its allegations?

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)’s A. Saravanan did not answer the question: he claimed exit polls were a “sham” designed to “prey on mindsets”.

Zee News: Anchor Sudhir Chaudhary said “there are some leaders in the country who want to create an atmosphere of civil war before the counting actually takes place”.

India TV: Anchor Rajat Sharma added that NDA leaders were quite confident of their victory but it is now “clear” that if the Opposition lose, they will blame the EVMs.

Front Page

The Election Commission is Wednesday’s newsmaker, on two different issues. One is captured by The Indian Express’s headline: “Countdown to counting, Oppn wants more safeguards, EC says all is well.” The other is Times of India’s top story on “EC rejects Lavasa’s demand to make dissent notes public”.

On the EVMs, when Opposition parties raised concerns over “what they called suspicious EVM movements”, “…the Commission dismissed allegations of EVMs being switched and said the machines used in the Lok Sabha elections were ‘absolutely safe’ in strongrooms”, writes Express.

“The EC said some of the EVMs seen were actually empty containers, while in a third case it said the machines were those that had malfunctioned and were being taken to a different strongroom in a private vehicle,” reports Hindustan Times in “Oppn raises EVM fears, asks EC for more checks”.

The Hindu says the meeting “saw a sharp exchange between the Opposition parties and the poll body”, and that the EC “remained non-committal” on the Opposition’s demands. EC “told the parties that there would be a special meeting of the full Commission on Wednesday to examine the issue”.

Express, Hindu and TOI also report former president Pranab Mukherjee’s “flip flopping” on the EC (Express), saying he “joined the controversy” over EVMs “barely 24 hours after he praised the election commission for its ‘perfect conduct’”.

On the Lavasa controversy, TOI says the EC “decided that dissent notes and minority views would only be a part of the record but not included in its order”. Express which claims it broke the story on the EC rift regarding clean chits to complaints about the BJP, gives this only column space, as does HT.

“In the past, EC has always conveyed only the majority decision on the MCC violations”, the Express explains.

Arunachal MLA killing

Suspected militants from the Nationalist Social Council of Nagaland allegedly killed sitting MLA and assembly candidate Tirong Aboh “and 10 others, including his son” in Arunachal Pradesh.

All mainstream newspapers cover the attack. TOI puts it on its front page flap. “Tuesday’s killings, which come just two days before the declaration of poll results, came as a surprise to the Army and Assam Rifles”, it writes, but doesn’t say why.

“The adjacent districts of Tirap (where the killing took place), Changland, and Longding of Arunchal Pradesh — surrounded by Assam, Nagaland, and Myanmar — is a violence-prone area in which the armed forces special powers act (AFSPA) is in force. Militants belonging to the multiple factions of the NSCN are active here, and in some parts, so is the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA),” says the Express in ‘Explained’.

Others

Express revives the Chief Justice of India sexual harassment case by summarising an op-ed piece by Justice Madan B. Lokur, in “Justice Lokur on CJI row: Institutional bias, woman must get report”.

“Justice Lokur has said the complainant must be given a copy of the report of the Internal Committee… ‘so that she gets answers to the questions that she and others have raised.’”

Meanwhile, an important media story is buried on Express page 1: “ED gags its own officers: Report colleagues who speak to media”.

It finds that “the Enforcement Directorate has circulated an internal circular warning of ‘punitive action’ against officers who interact with the media. The circular also asks officers to keep an eye on colleagues and report those found to be in touch with journalists”. No other paper puts it on page 1.

The Times of India’s front page is decorated by an advertisement for another media house: “THEFEDERAL.COM” — “Get the most sensible coverage of the great Indian elections”, reads the banner ad — except that the elections are over but for the counting.

Opinion

In “No Laughing matter”, Express says Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy has joined “the teeming ranks of politicians” who seek curbs against “unfavourable” media coverage. He has objected to the satirical portrayal of his family on TV.

Express contrasts him and those like him with India’s first PM, Jawaharlal Nehru who had no objection to Shankar’s “merciless lampooning”, but finds Indira Gandhi easily offended by “press freedoms”.

More recently, cartoonist Aseem Trivedi was charged with sedition in 2012 and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has been “chronically touchy” about satirical depictions. Express wants archaic colonial laws of sedition and criminal defamation to be abolished and hopes Kumaraswamy’s outburst is just temporary “pique”.

HT in “Explore other 5G options”, says Huawei’s problems in the US are a proxy war between US-China “over who will set the global standards for 5G”. A “new Cold War has been declared” using silicon chips and optic fibres.

While the US is correct that China has long carried out “widespread technological theft”, it has acted only recently against Huwaei primarily because US firms are “less invested’’ in China. China argues that US is “arm twisting” it only because of the “success” of firms like Huawei.

In all this, India has remained “ambiguous”. It is hard to find an “alternative” to Chinese hardware, especially at its “price points” but India needs to explore its 5G options and encourage home grown electronic capability.

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With inputs from Shailaja Bajpai.

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