The Election Commission on Tuesday said that the returning officer is the final authority under law to decide on recounting of votes in Nandigram Assembly constituency, where West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee lost the election to her former aide and Bharatiya Janata Party rival Suvendu Adhikari.
“The returning officer shall decide the matter and may allow the application in whole or in part or may reject it if it appears to him to be frivolous or unreasonable,” the poll panel said in a statement.
Banerjee lost the Nandigram election to Adhikari by a margin of 1,956 votes. The chief minister’s party, however, won 213 seats – way beyond the majority mark of 148 – and emerged victorious in the Assembly elections. The saffron party managed to secure only 77 constituencies.
The Trinamool Congress has contested the results in Nandigram and demanded a recounting of votes. Banerjee alleged “looting and cheating” in the counting process, but the Election Commission rejected the appeal to recount votes.
The Election Commission in its statement said officers on the ground diligently perform their duties with full transparency and fairness. “Therefore attribution of any motive in such cases is not desirable,” it added.
Referring to the developments on May 2 when votes were counted, the poll panel said each counting table had one micro observer. “Their reports never indicated any impurity of counting process on their respective table,” it said. No doubt was also raised on the result of round-wise counting, which enabled the returning officer to proceed uninterruptedly, the commission’s statement said.
“On the basis of Form-17C duly completed by the counting supervisors, returning officer prepared a round-wise statement,” it added. “In addition, on the computer installed in the counting hall, parallel tabulation work was also done in an excel sheet to counter check any human error.”
On Monday, Banerjee told reporters that the returning officer was threatened to not order a recount of votes for the constituency. She had also raised questions on the poll commission’s refusal to undertake recounting.
Nandigram constituency witnessed the most high-profile campaign in the record-eight phase elections in West Bengal despite the raging coronavirus pandemic. After the end of the 17 rounds of counting, the Election Commission had announced that Adhikari defeated Banerjee.