Assam EVM Row: EC Orders Repoll at Station, Suspends 4 Officers
The presiding officer was issued a show cause notice ‘for violation of the transport protocol’, the EC said.
The Election Commission on Friday, 2 March, announced a repoll at a Ratabari polling station and suspended four officials, hours after a video surfaced, alleging that an electronic voting machine (EVM) was being transported in the car of the Krishnendu Paul, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate from Patharkandi.
The presiding officer was issued a show cause notice "for violation of the transport protocol" and was suspended along with three other officials, the poll body said.
"Although the seals of the EVM were found intact, it has nevertheless been decided to do a re-poll at No 149 – Indira MV School of LAC 1 Ratabari (SC) as added precaution. A report has also been sought from the Special Observer," the EC added.
The video, which surfaced barely a few hours after the second phase of polling ended in Assam, was tweeted out by senior Assam-based journalist Atanu Bhuyan, who also reported that the “situation is tense in Patharkandi” because of this incident.
In the video, an EVM can be seen inside a white coloured jeep with the registration number 0022 and people can be heard saying that the jeep belongs to Paul.
Paul’s election affidavit from the 2021 elections shows that he owns a Bolero with the registration number AS 10B 0022.
What Did the EC Say?
In a 2018 circular on storing EVMs, the EC had said that under “no circumstances any person will take any EVM, whether polled EVMs or reserve EVMs in the custody of sector officers, to his home or any private place.”
However, in a detailed report pertaining to incident in the Karimganj district, the EC said the vehicle of the polling party broke down around 9 pm on 1 April. "While the sector officer was arranging for an alternate vehicle, polling party decided to arrange a vehicle of its own so as to reach the Material Receipt Centre faster since they were in custody of polled EVMs," it said.
The poll body went on to say that the party then "hailed a passing vehicle and boarded it along with their EVM and other things without checking the ownership of the vehicle..." Later, it said, the party was "surrounded by a mob" and was subjected to stone-pelting, on being told by the "leader of the mob” that the vehicle belonged to Krishnendu Paul.
The EC said the vehicle in question was found to be registered in the name of Madhumita Paul, Krishnendu’s wife.
"...It was observed that the crowd was pulling out the polling party and were about to assault them. The mob had turned violent and had damaged the glass of the vehicle by stone pelting. During the course of the stone pelting, SP Karimganj sustained minor injuries... and blank firing had to be resorted to disperse the mob. The first polling officer was found missing in the commotion, the EVM's and the remaining polling party along were safely escorted from the area...," the EC said. It added that the first polling officer was missing till early on Friday and was found hiding in an undergrowth near the scene of the ruckus.
‘BJP Is Losing Assam’: Congress
The Congress has accused the BJP of trying to steal the election, with several top leaders tweeting about the incident, including Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, MPs Pradyut Bordoloi and Gaurav Gogoi, party’s incharge for Assam Jitendra Singh and senior leader Rakibul Hussain.
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