After two ballot papers used in Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) were recovered from the lekhpal at the counting site in Sant Kabir Nagar, at least three senior officials were removed by the Election Commission in Uttar Pradesh.
The two ballot papers were recovered from a record keeper inside the counting site located at HRPG college, as per the allegations. The district magistrate of Sant Kabir Nagar told media channels that the unused ballot papers had remained behind due to a mistake. An FIR has been registered in the matter.
The lands records officer Nagendra Singh has been suspended with immediate effect and a committee has been constituted under the chairmanship of ADM (J) to investigate the matter.
This comes a day after Samajwadi Party (SP) president Akhilesh Yadav alleged EVM tampering in Varanasi, following which the Election Commission (EC) suspended Varanasi Additional District Magistrate (ADM) Nalini Kant Singh. The EC has ordered his dismissal from all election work.
Samajwadi Party Workers Protest Alleging Wrongdoing
Votes in Uttar Pradesh – and four other states – are being counted on Thursday, 10 March.
Samajwadi Party workers staged protests in Azamgarh and Moradabad on Wednesday claiming recovery of blank ballot papers from vehicles while alleging wrongdoing on the part of the official machinery.
In a tweet from its official Twitter account, the party claimed that the car carrying 10,000 plain ballot papers was trying to enter a strong room in Azamgarh after switching off its headlights.
"The vehicle from Varanasi was stopped by alert SP workers at the gate. At whose behest were the ballot papers being taken? What was the purpose? EC please clarify," the tweet read.
District Election Officer of Azamgarh, Amrit Tripathi, later clarified that the vehicle belonged to the block development officer (BDO) and the recovered ballot papers were unused, which had to be submitted along with the ballot papers.
A party delegation led by state unit president Naresh Uttam Patel and national secretary Rajendra Chaudhari met Election Commission (EC) officials in Lucknow in connection with the recovery of ballot papers.
SP workers allegedly resorted to stone pelting in which ADG Varanasi Ramkumar’s official car was damaged, and his driver Lalta Prasad was injured. Later, an FIR was logged against 300 men at Lalpur/Pandeypur police station under IPC sections including attempt to murder, loot, and riot.
ECI Reiterates EVMs Are Secure
Additional election officer VK Singh too was removed from the election process in Bareilly after ballot boxes and other election items were found inside a garbage collection bin of the local municipality in the Baheri area.
In Moradabad, a huge ruckus erupted after the Tehsildar was allegedly caught with two ballot boxes hidden in a vehicle near the strong room at Mandi Samiti.
"The tehsildar misbehaved with SP agents when they tried to stop him from entering the EVM strong room and he also tried to take the ballot boxes inside," former SP district president of Jaiveer Singh Yadav alleged.
In Sonbhadra, SDM Ramesh Kumar was removed after unused ballot papers were found in his official car. The Election Commission deputed Delhi CEO Ranbir Singh to Meerut and Bihar CEO HR Srinivas to Varanasi to supervise the counting arrangements.
The EC reiterated that all the EVMs are sealed inside the strong room and secured in a three-tier security cordon of the central paramilitary forces. "These machines are completely isolated and safe and have CCTV monitoring. These are being continuously (24x7) directly monitored through CCTV coverage by the representatives of all political parties/ candidates. The representatives of political parties were also informed about this by the District Election Officer/ District Magistrate Varanasi,” read the ECI statement.
Over 671 counting observers, 130 police observers, and 10 special observers will be on the ground to ensure the counting process is smooth, the Commission said. Counting of votes will be taken up for postal ballots at 8 am on Thursday and will continue till its completion.
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