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Bihar polls: CPI(M) writes to EC; flags concerns over funding, social media, EVMs

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New Delhi, Oct 09: The CPI(M) on Friday raised concerns over funding and use of social media and electronic voting machines in the upcoming assembly polls in Bihar.

In a letter to the Election Commission, the party said that it had earlier raised these issues but did not get a response from the poll body.

Representational Imaage

The Commission had on September 25 issued a detailed note of information and directions on the conduct of the Bihar polls.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) said in addition to the pending questions were three issues which needed to be flagged ahead of the state polls.

The first issue raised by the party was on the question of funding, particularly in the light of the electoral bond scheme.

The letter quoted the Election Commission's (EC) affidavit in the Supreme Court where the poll body had stated that electoral bonds would signal "serious repercussions on the transparency aspect of political funding of political parties".

"Since the matter is now pending with the Supreme Court, the question is, how the Election Commission will discharge the mandate of Article 324 in ensuring a free and fair poll in Bihar and a level playing field. The guidelines issued on September 25 do not throw any light on this vital question," the letter said.

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The second issue raised by the Left party was concerning an effective mechanism to ensure a level playing field on mass media and social media.

"The experience in recent times clearly shows that BJP, armed with its enormous money power, enjoys a disproportionate advantage over all other political parties," it said.

The letter said the BJP has "kicked off a virtual election campaign by putting up 72,000 LED TV monitors for Union Home Minister Amit Shah's speech" ahead of the Bihar assembly polls.

"After holding 60 virtual rallies, the BJP has claimed that its election campaign efforts would involve 9,500 IT Cell heads who will coordinate 72,000 Whatsapp groups, one for each polling booth, of which 50,000 have been formed in the last two months.

"The amount of expenditure that would be involved to put together such manpower for a technology driven system is simply mind boggling," it said, adding that the "anonymous corporate funds without any upper ceiling will certainly be the death knell for electoral democracy".

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    The Left said the use of social media by political parties had assumed new significance in the "light of the exposure on BJP's involvement in the spread of misogyny and hate on social media".

    "The report in The Wall Street Journal has opened the floodgate of more factual details about how Facebook and Twitter have been complicit in turning a blind eye to BJP's divisive campaign on the strength of its substantial investment through advertisement in the social media platform along with its associates. This is in addition to its use of Whatsapp messages to build a narrative based on fake news," the party alleged in the letter to the Election Commission.

    Also raising concerns over the functioning of electronic voting machines (EVMs), the CPI(M) said, "... contrary to Supreme Court direction, the safeguard regime for eliminating the possibility of a foul play, the VVPAT has been used not for ensuring transparency but to introduce a new element of uncertainty."

    "We hope that these three concerns will be addressed by the Election Commission of India and appropriate official directions issued. Such appropriate direction must be available to all the political parties which are in the election process in the upcoming elections to the Bihar Assembly," the party added.

    The voting for Bihar assembly elections will be held in three phases -- first on October 28, second on November 3 and the third on November 7 -- while counting of all votes will take place on November 10.

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