The Election Commission of India is confused about the actual number of people who were eligible to vote - the electorate - in the 2014 general election. The BJP led by Narendra Modi received more than 17 crore votes in that election, amounting to nearly one-third of the votes polled.

The ECI recently published a bulky media handbook with different kinds of information regarding the previous Lok Sabha election. On page 3 it mentions that the Indian electorate numbered 83.40 crores (834 million) in 2014.

The same figure is repeated on page 64 of the media handbook, which is also available on the ECI website.

But on page 82 of the same handbook another figure appears. The electorate in 2014 comes down to 81.45 crore or 814.5 million.

When The Citizen asked about the discrepancy, the ECI’s director-general for communication and media, Dhirendra Ojha, said that we should mention the word “pre-summary” before the lower figure, of 814.5 million.

But the ECI itself uses this “pre-summary” figure to discuss the total electorate for the ongoing general election. It says:

“The total electorate in the country as per finally published e-rolls in reference to 01.01.2019 is approximately 900 million, compared to 814.5 million in 2014. This marks an increase of more than 84 million electors. Over 15 million electors are in the 18-19 years age group. Electors in the age group of 18 to 19 years constitute 1.66% of total electors.”

This discrepancy of 2 crore people leads to a doubtful situation, to say the least, especially for journalists.

At the same time the Press Information Bureau has also published an attractive and costly handbook, 365 pages long, for the media. The PIB is the only media organisation responsible for the dissemination of information among mediapersons and people in general on behalf of the Government of India.

The PIB handbook appears to have copy-pasted the same figure for the total number of the electorate - 814.5 million - for the 2014 Lok Sabha Election, on page 5.

But in the same handbook the PIB mentions the other estimate of the total number of eligible voters in the country. On page 127 the electorate is said to number 83,40,82,814 people.

The ECI is a constitutional authority and the PIB is the only media organisation meant to organise awareness among ordinary citizens. Yet both organisations have published these handbooks only in English, and at a time when we are midway through the 2019 general election.

Rather like the ECI’s inability to calculate just how many electronic voting machines are out there, the discrepancy of 2 crore or 20 million eligible voters remains to be explained.