Former President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday praised the Election Commission for conducting the Lok Sabha polls in a “perfect” manner. He made the remark at the launch of the book Defining India Through Their Eyes, written by NDTV Editorial Director Sonia Singh.
“If we want to strengthen institutions, we have to keep in mind that institutions are serving well in this country, and if democracy has succeeded, it’s largely due to the perfect conduct of elections by all Election Commissioners starting from Sukumar Sen to the present Election Commissioners,” Mukherjee said. “All are appointed by the executive and they are doing their job well. You can’t criticise them. It was perfect conduct of the elections.”
Mukherjee added that “only a bad workman quarrels with his tools”. “A good workman knows how to utilise these tools,” he added.
The veteran Congress leader also praised the electorate for voting in large numbers. “As many as 67.3% participated in this Lok Sabha election – that’s more than 2/3rd,” he said. “And after many years, I got to cast my vote in a booth as citizen Pranab Mukherjee.”
The former president’s remarks came a day after Congress President Rahul Gandhi criticised the Election Commission in a tweet, saying: “From Electoral Bonds & EVMs to manipulating the election schedule, NaMo TV, ‘Modi’s Army’ & now the drama in Kedarnath; the Election Commission’s capitulation before Mr Modi & his gang is obvious to all Indians.”
Other Opposition leaders have also raised doubts about the reliability of electronic voting machines. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, while dismissing “exit poll gossip”, had said: “The game plan is to manipulate or replace thousands of EVMs [electronic voting machines] through this gossip.”
Exit polls have predicted an easy win for the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance.
Opposition leaders also alleged on Monday that there has been a “sudden movement” of EVMs around the country following the polls. On Tuesday, a few Opposition leaders will meet the Election Commission to talk about tallying paper trail of votes, or VVPATs, with EVM figures.
The Opposition has also claimed that the poll panel has been biased in favour of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah. The Election Commission had dismissed several complaints of violations of the Model Code of Conduct against Modi during the polls.
Mukherjee caused disquiet in the Congress last year when he visited the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh headquarters in Nagpur and delivered a speech. The party, which had cautioned him against attending the event earlier, said following the speech that Mukherjee had shown the RSS the “mirror of truth”. The RSS, meanwhile, contended that the Congress veteran’s speech was in sync with its beliefs.