Three officials were removed from election duty in Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday, a day after the Samajwadi Party alleged that electronic voting machines were being shifted in an unauthorised manner. The officials were replaced on the directions of the Election Commission.
The nodal officer for EVMs in Varanasi, a returning officer (RO) in Sonbhadra district and an additional election officer in Bareilly district have been pulled out from election duties, a day ahead of the counting of votes in UP. Meanwhile, the BJP petitioned the Election Commission demanding action against Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav for allegedly attempting to spread “disaffection"and level false charges against the Election Commission and its officials. Apart from Uttar Pradesh, counting of votes in Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur will take place on Thursday. The Assembly polls were held in these states over seven phases.
Varanasi District Magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma said Additional DM Nalini Kant Singh has been removed from the election duty for negligence in EVM transportation. She has also been barred from going to the counting spot. Additional District Magistrate (Finance and Revenue) Sanjay Kumar has been made the nodal officer for EVMs.
Additional Election Officer V K Singh was removed from the election process in Bareilly. Ballot boxes and other election items were found inside a garbage collection bin of the local municipality in the Baheri area. In Sonbhadra district, Ghorawal returning officer Ramesh Kumar was removed from the election duty as ballot papers were recovered from a box inside his vehicle. The Varanasi DM said all EVMs were checked late in the night in the presence of election observers and candidates after the ruckus over the alleged replacement of EVMs on Tuesday.
Sharma said all control units, ballot units and VVPATs were checked. A report from Varanasi said two FIRs have been registered by police against 300 unknown people for violence and hooliganism while protesting the transportation of EVMs on Tuesday.
Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav had on Tuesday cited examples of the three places, alleging the “stealing of votes". The SP uploaded a video at its Twitter handle of an official admitting that the required protocol was not followed in the transportation of the EVMs on Tuesday.
He, however, seems to have categorically ruled out any possibility of EVM tampering. Alleging that EVMs were being tampered with, the SP workers have increased their vigilance outside the strongrooms where the voting machines have been kept.
Reports from districts suggested SP workers checking vehicles of government officials near the strongrooms in Karhal, Badaun, Ballia and Sultanpur. Activists of the Rashtriya Lok Dal and farmers’ outfit Bharatiya Kisan Union have pitched tents near election offices in various districts of western Uttar Pradesh to keep an eye on the counting on Thursday. The Election Commission of India Wednesday deputed special officers to supervise counting of votes in Meerut and Varanasi amid complaints from opposition parties about alleged irregularities in Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls. The Samajwadi Party has asked the Election Commission to webcast the counting of votes so that political parties could watch the proceedings live. Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya and minister Mohsin Raza have taken potshots at the SP supremo for creating fuss in anticipation of a sure defeat. The BJP petitioned the Election Commission demanding action against Yadav for allegedly trying to “incite anti-social elements" over the electoral process. A BJP delegation submitted a memorandum to Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra, claiming that Yadav, through a press conference on Tuesday “attempted to spread disaffection and levelled brazen, unsubstantiated, frivolous and false charges against the Election Commission and its officials".
“Should such leaders even be allowed to participate in the elections, the ultimate celebration of democracy? The commission must take a view on the matter," the BJP leaders said in the memorandum to the Commission. Senior BJP leaders–Dharmendra Pradhan, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, G Kishan Reddy and Om Pathak–also requested the Commission to ensure that the counting process, its venues and the areas around it are fully protected.
At a press conference in Lucknow on Tuesday, Yadav had alleged that senior government officials in the state capital were directing their subordinates in the districts to slow down the counting of votes and prolong the process till late night where the chances of the BJP candidates winning were slim. “Spreading lies and inciting citizens is a serious and grave offence and Akhilesh Yadav and his cohorts must be held accountable and be charged under relevant provisions of the election code and the Indian Penal Code," the BJP leaders said.