Elections in Bihar are done and dusted, but the narrow defeat in many of the seats have led the Rashtriya Janata Dal - who emerged as the single largest party, despite the defeat of its Grand Alliance coalition - along with some of its allies to push for a recount of votes. Eventually, Twitter users poured out in supported of the defeated parties, with the hashtag #बिहार_मांगें_रिकॉउंटिंग (#Bihar_Demands_Recounting) trending on the platform.
In response, the Election Commission did a recount in one of the seats (Hilsa constituency) where the victory margin was just 12 votes, but refused to entertain the recounting of several other seats with low victory margins. So the question arises, under what conditions can there be a recount?
"Margin Must Be Less Than Number Of Rejected Postal Ballots"
BOOM spoke to former Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi, who said, "There has to be mandatory recount in cases where there are rejected postal ballots exceeding the vote margin."
This was the case in Hilsa constituency, where RJD's Atri Muni lost the seat to Janata Dal (United)'s Prem Mukhiya by 12 votes, while the number of rejected postal ballots were 182. Muni had then asked for a recount of all the votes - EVM and postal ballots. However, only the request of recount of postal ballots were granted.
"The Returning Officer (RO) rejected the first demand since his counting agents were present at the time of EVM results and seemed satisfied with the process. To satisfy the candidate, the RO permitted recounting of all 551 postal votes, including the invalid ones. The result remained unchanged," Bihar CEO H R Srinivas told The Indian Express.
Foul Play Or Just Bad Luck?
According to the EC website, 11 out of 243 seats saw a winning margin of less than 1000 votes - Hilsa, Barbigha, Matihani, Dehri, Bachhwara, Chakai, Ramgarh, Bakhri, Parbatta, Bhorey and Kurhani. Four of these were won by JDU, three by RJD and one each went to BJP, CPI, LJP and an Independent candidate.
Along with Muni, five other candidates had asked for a recount for Matihani, Parbatta, Bhorey, Dehri and Ramgarh - but their requests were rejected by the RO due to the number of rejected postal ballots being a lot lesser than the vote margins.
This has led to Yadav and some other candidates from his party allege foul play, but Quraishi finds it unlikely. "The RO has discretionary powers to decide, and the counting is done in the presence of observers and party representatives from both sides and it is recorded on video. RO's decision can only be challenged in court through election petition," he said.
So, what could be Yadav's potential next step here, if he is so inclined on taking it further? Going to court would be the only option left for the young RJD leader, but he would have to present sufficient evidence to justify a recounting process.
Speaking at a press conference, Yadav claimed that his party should have won 130 seats instead of 110 (with 122 seats required to get a majority), and that the loss in 20 seats were with very thin margins which needed reconsideration. He, however, failed to mention the names of these 20 seats.
Finally, he threatened to go to court if the EC couldn't satisfy the demands of his party's candidates. "We wonder how 500-700-900 postal ballots were declared invalid. The EC has to satisfy queries of our candidates or else we might move court", he stated.
Past Cases Of Recounting
During the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, former Union Minister P. Chidambaram initially lost the seat of Sivaganga to AIADMK's Raja Kannappan by 3000 votes. Following this, Chidambaram sought a recount and turned out to be the winner.
This led to backlash from Kannappan asking for a second recount, following which Chidambaram was still found to be the winner with 3354 votes.
Following this, former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had alleged that his victory was achieved by fraudulent means, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi had often called him "recounting minister" during his 2014 Lok Sabha elections campaign.
In 2019, the Madras High Court ordered a recount of votes for the Radhapuram Assembly constituency, which was won by AIADMK's I.S. Inbadurai by a close margin against DMK's M. Appavu. On October 4, 2019, the recounting took place throughout the day at the Madras High Court premises.
However, Inbadurai obtained a stay order from the Supreme Court to stop the declarations of the results, which were therefore never declared post-recounting.
Does Tejashwi Yadav have any chance of overturning the results with a recount? Given the past history of vote recounting, it seems unlikely that he can change the results for 20 seats, as he so claims.