Assam EVM Row: BJP says ‘Good Will’ gesture; Opposition demands Disqualification of Candidate
GUWAHATI: Immediately after a polled electronic voting machine (EVM) was allegedly found to be carried in the car belonging to a BJP candidate in Assam following the second phase in the state on Thursday, a war of words has begun between the two opposition parties of BJP and Congress.
While the BJP leadership claimed that it was just a goodwill gesture by its leader in Assam to provide a ‘lift’ to the election officials to take the polled EVM to the strong room after the election commission (EC) vehicle broke down, for opposition Congress, it was nothing but BJP’s way of manipulating EVMs.
Congress national general secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala on Friday asked, “Why were EVM recovered from BJP candidate’s car? Has the EC found only the BJP candidate’s vehicle in the entire area to transport EVM?”
The Congress leader also demanded the EC to come up with its response to some other incidents recorded during the state polls in which EVMs were involved. “Why were EVM found in the boot of a luxury car near Hatipura polling station in Diphu in Assam? As many as 139 polling stations faced serious EVM malfunctioning in the second phase, including Jagiroad, Nagaon, Hojai, Nilbagan, Lumding and others? What action has been taken?” he asked.
Congress former MP and leader Sushmita Dev said, “This is a criminal act and we demand immediate disqualification of the candidate. This is clear that the BJP is losing in Assam that is why it is using illegal means to win the elections, which is unacceptable.”
However, for Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) minister Jitendra Singh, the opposition Congress was only trying to mislead the public as the EC has already taken action on the matter. He tweeted: “The busybodies chasing a non-issue in a desperate bid to make an issue out of it can take a break and then break the news that Congress and its alliance ‘Mahajot’ are facing imminent defeat in Assam.”
Silchar BJP MP Rajdeep Roy tweeted: “Seems like the days of being a good samaritan are gone. The candidate’s brother was helping election officials stranded on a stretch of road from Nilambazar to Karimganj. The EVM (No. 149) doesn’t belong to the constituency of the alleged candidate.”
On Friday, the election commission (EC) ordered fresh voting in one polling station of Assam’s Ratabari seat and suspended four officials following the incident.
The EC in a statement said, “As the polling party was approaching NilamBazaar, the vehicle which had been allotted by the transport cell of election branch, DC office, to the party carrying the polling party broke down at about 9 pm on April 1, 2021. Due to the traffic congestion and the prevailing weather condition, the party became detached from its convoy. The party alighted from the vehicle and called the sector officer Ajoy Sutradhar on his mobile and informed him. 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 added, “At about 9.20 pm, the polling party hailed a passing vehicle and boarded it along with their EVM and other things without checking the ownership of the vehicle bearing the number AS-10B-0022. As reported by the polling party, they moved towards Karimganj and as they reached Kanaishil in Karimganj at about 10 pm, they had to slow down in the traffic. As they slowed down, they were surrounded by a mob of about 50 people which started pelting stones at them. The mob also started abusing them and did not allow the vehicle to pass. When they asked the leader of the mob, he replied that it was the vehicle of Krishnendu Paul who is a contesting candidate of a neighbouring constituency (Patharkandi LAC-2) and he leveled allegations that the EVM was being taken to be tampered with.”
However, the EC said that on examination, the polled EVM comprising of BU, CU and VVPAT was found to be with its seal intact without any damage whatsoever.
Assam went through the second phase of polling on Thursday recording over 77 per cent turnout.