NEW DELHI: The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Monday rejected Congress leader Jairam Ramesh’s request seeking a week’s extension to back up his allegation that Union home minister Amit Shah called up 150 district magistrates and collectors ahead of the June 4 counting of votes for the Lok Sabha elections.

Chief election commissioner Rajiv Kumar on Monday asked if it was really possible to influence all DMs (HT Photo/Vipin Kumar)

“Your allegation that attempts have been made to influence the District Magistrates of around 150 Parliamentary Constituencies, who are also the ROs/DEOs (Returning Officers/District Election Officers), has serious connotation and direct bearing on the sanctity of the counting process, scheduled for tomorrow. As mentioned in Commissions letter dated 02..06.2024, no DM has reported any such undue influence as alleged by you. Therefore, the Commission hereby outrightly rejects your request for time extension,” ECI’s senior principal secretary Narendra N Butolia said in his letter to the senior Congress leader.

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Butolia’s letter was a response to Jairam Ramesh’s request made a few hours earlier. In his communication, the Congress leader said his party colleagues elaborated on their concerns during a hearing with the ECI on Sunday. “[W]e pointed out that our concern is vis-à-vis vigilance and that we cannot put serving officers in jeopardy by putting a target on their backs,” Ramesh said in his letter that sought a week’s extension.

Ramesh underscored that his comments, first made in a post on X on Saturday. were not accusations against ECI but instead a request to safeguard against such malpractices” given the ruling regime’s “well documented and high-handed behaviour” of “misusing and even intimidating official machinery”.

During a press conference earlier in the day – the first after March 16 when the Lok Sabha elections were announced – chief election commissioner Rajiv Kumar said it was not right to spread rumours and doubt everyone. “Can someone influence them all? (district magistrates/returning officers) all? Can anyone influence 500-600 people? Tell us who did this. We will punish the person who did it. They should tell the details before counting the votes. It is not right that you spread a rumour and doubt everyone,” Rajiv Kumar said.

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