The Election Commission of India has suspended four polling officials deputed in Assam’s Karimganj after they were found transporting an EVM a vehicle belonging to BJP MLA Krishnendu Paul. The poll panel has also ordered repolling in the booth, and an FIR is likely to filed in the case.
The action comes a day after violence broke out in Karimganj after the second phase of voting concluded for the assembly elections when locals found polling officials hitching a ride in the MLAs car. The EVM was found in the Mahindra Bolero, which is registered in the name of Paul’s kin, some three kilometres from Karimgan. The EVM was being transported to the strong room after voting concluded.
The Election Commission had initiated disciplinary action against the polling officials. The preliminary report sent by the District Election Officer said the polling party was “initially unaware that the vehicle in which they were travelling belonged to the BJP MLA”.
According to the report, the presiding officer of the voting centre at Indira MV School at Ratabari constituency and other members of the polling party were heading to the strong room when their car broke down. They failed to establish communication with election officials and took a lift from a passing car. However, the vehicle belonged to the Patharkandi MLA, who is a candidate in the assembly election.
The District Election Officer’s report said that the seal of the EVM was found intact.
Speaking to News18, polling officer Sahabudding Talukdar claimed that the polling party did not know about Krishnendu Paul. “We are not from Patharkandi. We were returning with the EVMs when our vehicle broke down. This vehicle offered us help to so we agreed to board it to Karimganj. We do not know Krishnendu Paul,” he said.
The entire episode led to tension in the area. The vehicle with the EVM had been intercepted by locals, who after a heated altercation had attacked the vehicle and the occupants with bamboo poles and sticks. Security forces that reached the spot were attacked with stones. The police then fired in the air to disperse the crowd.
A video of the EVM being transported in the MLA’s car was tweeted by a journalist and has gone viral on social media. The Congress party has threatened to boycott the elections if the “open loot and rigging of EVMs” does not stop immediately.
Targeting the BJP over the incident, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi said the Election Commission should act decisively on such complaints and that a serious re-evaluation of the use of EVM’s needs to be carried out by all national parties.
Every time there is an election videos of private vehicles caught transporting EVM’s show up. Unsurprisingly they have the following things in common:1. The vehicles usually belong to BJP candidates or their associates. ….
— Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (@priyankagandhi) April 2, 2021
She tweeted: “Every time there is an election video of private vehicles caught transporting EVM’s show up. Unsurprisingly they have the following things in common: 1. The vehicles usually belong to BJP candidates or their associates. 2. The videos are taken as one off incidents and dismissed as aberrations. 3. The BJP uses its media machinery to accuse those who exposed the videos as sore losers”.
On Thursday, 39 assembly seats went to polls in Assam in the second phase of the election. A voter turnout of 73.03 per cent was recorded till 6 pm.
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