Bihar Chief Electoral Officer HR Srinivas on Thursday dismissed allegations of irregularity in counting postal ballots and said that all the guidelines of the Election Commission were strictly followed, PTI reported.

Th clarification came after Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav complained of fraud in the counting process and demanded a recount, flagging narrow margins in 20 seats. The Opposition leader, however, did not specify which 20 seats he was talking about.

Srinivas told reporters that rules were strictly followed in the 11 constituencies where the victory margin was less than 1,000 votes. According to the data shared by him, these constituencies are Hilsa, Barbigha, Ramgarh, Matihani, Bhorey, Dehri, Bachhwara, Chakai, Kurhani, Bakhri and Parbatta.

In Hilsa constituency, Srinivas said the request for recount was accepted as the victory margin was only 12 votes and the number of rejected postal ballots was 182. “The returning officer recounted the entire postal ballots including those which were rejected as invalid in Hilsa and passed a reasoned order in this regard,” Srinivas said. He added that the officials rejected the demand for a recount of EVM votes as the returning officer’s counting agents were present at the time and seemed satisfied with the process, according to The Indian Express.

In five other constituencies – Ramgarh, Matihani, Bhorey, Dehri and Parbatta – the victory margin was more than the rejected postal ballots, Srinivas said, adding that a reasoned order was given by the returning officer in each case.

Without naming Yadav, the chief electoral officer answered all the questions raised by him during the day on alleged discrepancies in the counting of votes. Srinivas said his office will make relevant documents and a video tape of the recount proceedings available to those concerned.

When asked about the RJD’s allegation of inordinate delay in handing over certificates to the winning candidates, Srinivas said, “At the end of EVM counting, five polling stations are randomly chosen and their VVPAT slips are verified with the EVM count. Counting of VVPAT slips is a tedious job and takes time.”

“That apart, in some cases, the VVPAT slips had to also be tallied when the control unit did not display the result and where the polling officer forgot to delete the mock poll votes,” Srinivas added, according to The Indian Express. “So while according to the candidate the EVM rounds are over, the actual result declaration cannot happen till the VVPAT slips are tallied, and data of all polling stations is entered into the EC’s software. These reasons contribute to the time taken in handing over certificates to the winning candidates.”

The National Democratic Alliance retained power in Bihar by securing 125 seats in the 243-member state Assembly. The Mahagathbandhan or Grand Alliance also put up a strong fight. The RJD emerged as the single-largest party in the elections, winning 75 seats. The Congress won 19, while the Left parties put up an impressive performance by winning 16 seats.

‘Congress disappointed with its performance’: Chidambaram

Meanwhile, Congress leader P Chidambaram told reporters on Thursday that the party was disappointed with its performance in Bihar elections and would soon review it.

“We accept the verdict,” he added. “We are disappointed with our performance in Bihar. The Congress Working Committee will review it in due course and come up with an official statement of our position.”

The former finance minister stated that people should remember that Bihar was the poorest state of India, saying that Narendra Modi has been the prime minister since 2014 and Nitish Kumar the chief minister of the state since 2005.

Chidambaram said the vote difference between the NDA and the Grand Alliance was only 0.3%. “I think, 10 seats either this way or that would have changed the government,” he added.