New Delhi: Counting of votes in the JNU students union polls was suspended for over 14 hours on Saturday by election authorities citing "forcible entry" and "attempts to snatch away ballot boxes" at counting venue, after the ABVP staged protests claiming it was not informed about the start of the process.
The counting, which was suspended at 4 am, resumed at 6.30 pm after two teachers from the Grievance Redressal Cell were appointed as observers for the exercise, officials said.
The counting process was stalled after Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) which is the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), staged a protest alleging they were not informed about the process.
The JNU Election Committee said, "The counting process, which began on 14 September at 10 pm has been suspended due to forcible entry into the counting venue and attempts to snatch away the sealed ballot boxes as well as ballot papers from our counting centres."
The Left outfits alleged that the ABVP was involved in the violence but the saffron outfit denied it.
The deadlock at the Jawaharlal Nehru University persisted till evening with the ABVP accusing the election authorities of bias towards the Left outfits and threatening to move court.
The Election Committee, however, issued a statement saying it had made announcement for counting agents to come and was following the rules.
It said, "A malicious lie is being spread on social media and among students that the Election Committee had not made three announcements and went forth with the entry of the counting agents for post of Central Panel for combined schools and Special Centres."
The Election Committee would like to clearly state three announcement calls were made (with the third call announced as the last and final call) and communicated to the students gathered outside the counting venue) via loudspeaker, the committee said.
"After that, the election committee members informed the security guards about it and asked them to gather any counting agents...Fourteen counting agents for ten different candidates had reported at the counting venue. After this, counting process had started and sealed boxes were opened in the presence of the counting agents," it said.
As per the established norms, no new counting agents can enter the counting venue, once the seal of the boxes is opened.
"The Election Committee (EC) had to reject the request of new counting agents being allowed inside that respective counting venue. A few students had forcibly entered the building and reached the counting venue, thus we had to suspend the counting process," it said.
The panel also claimed that their members, including women, faced intimidation.
President of ABVP-JNU unit Vijay Kumar said they will not hesitate to approach the Delhi High Court if they do not get justice.
"Counting of votes is being done without adhering to the rules. The EC is not following even the bare minimum requirements of election procedure...The biased way of handling elections has put a question mark on EC's neutrality. We have approached the Grievance Redressal Cell to seek justice. We will not hesitate to proceed to Delhi High Court if we don't get justice," he added.
The Grievance Redressal Cell is a body comprising the varsity's professors which addresses election related complaints.
In the evening, it was announced that the Cell has appointed two observers for the counting if votes.
The ABVP claimed their counting agent was not informed about the beginning of counting of votes polled in science schools.
The Left bloc claimed that "around 4 am, ABVP broke the glasses of the School of International Studies building". They also claimed the ABVP counting agent was called but he did not turn up on time.
Kumar claimed their counting agent was not called and the counting process was initiated in front of the members of the Left outfit.
"We protested peacefully as the EC is biased towards the Left. We did not create any ruckus," he said.
The voter turnout in the keenly contested JNUSU election on Friday was 67.8 percent, believed to be the highest in six years. Over 5,000 students cast their votes.
The Left-backed All India Students' Association (AISA), Students' Federation of India (SFI), Democratic Students' Federation (DSF) and All India Students' Federation (AISF) have come together to form the United-Left alliance.
Besides the Left bloc, there are candidates of ABVP, NSUI (National Students' Union of India) and BAPSA (Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association).
Technical glitches in EVMs had marred the counting process for Delhi University Students' Union polls on Thursday, leading to its suspension for close to three hours.
Updated Date: Sep 15, 2018 22:48 PM