- Upendra Kushwaha, is now a part of the opposition alliance in Bihar
- He asserted that safeguarding one's vote is as important as self-defence
- The grand alliance leader dismissed the exit polls predictions
Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) leader Upendra Kushwaha on Tuesday warned of violent reprisals from the public if the ruling BJP and its allies try to manipulate voting machines in their favour in the run-up to the counting day on May 23.
Upendra Kushwaha, a former Union Minister in the Narendra Modi government and now a part of the opposition alliance in Bihar, made this statement at a press conference held in Patna amid allegations of unidentified people trying to whisk away voting machines from strongrooms across Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab and Haryana. Several videos purportedly showing such activities had also cropped up earlier on Tuesday, after which former President Pranab Mukherjee also expressed his concerns in this regard.
"Vehicles have been caught taking away EVMs, but the authorities seem to have no explanation for this. The people are feeling troubled by such incidents. They will not remain quiet, and neither will the leaders in the mahagathbandhan," he said at the event, which was also attended by Rashtriya Janata Dal state president Ramchandra Purve, state Congress chief Madan Mohan Jha and other leaders of the opposition alliance.
The RLSP leader went on to assert that safeguarding one's vote is just as important as self-defence. "Our vote comes right up there with our prestige, our livelihoods... Just as we are allowed the right to self-defence, even to the extent of taking up arms to safeguard our lives, we are allowed to do the same for our votes," he said.
Any attempt by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to "loot votes" would result in tremendous public anger and blood spilling onto the streets, news agency PTI quoted him as saying.
Upendra Kushwaha also dismissed the exit polls predictions released on Sunday, terming them as an attempt to demoralise opposition cadre so that the "rigged results" can be justified later. "We toured the entire state during the elections, and it can be said without hesitation that we will win most of the seats here. Such has been the public response in favour of the mahagathbandhan," he said, adding that keeping round-the-clock vigil at counting centres was of utmost importance because they were dealing with a political entity "without any scruples".
Most exit polls awarded 30 or more seats to the ruling BJP-Janata Dal (United) alliance in Bihar, leaving anywhere between 10 to four for the opposition alliance. An aggregate of the 13 exit polls also showed the ruling NDA winning over 300 of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha.
A delegation of opposition parties that met the Election Commission on Tuesday had also raised concerns over the "illegal shifting" of voting machines in the four states, claiming that it only confirms their allegations of tampering. The poll body, however, maintained that such "movement" of voting machines was routine.
NDA leaders have dismissed the allegations. "Political parties that know they are losing usually make allegations about EVM tampering. This shows that they are afraid, they are nervous and are struggling..." Janata Dal (United) chief Nitish Kumar said.
Upendra Kushwaha had quit the NDA in December last year, months after the BJP made it clear that his party would be given only two tickets for the Lok Sabha elections. The RLSP was allowed to contest from three seats in the 2014 elections, of which it won two.
(With inputs from Agencies)