NEW DELHI: The Election Commission on Friday ordered a repoll at a booth in Ratabari constituency in Assam after an EVM (Electronic Voting Machine) and the paper trail machine were found inside the car of a BJP candidate. The EVM had been installed in the booth in question.
The discovery on Thursday night ignited a major political row with the Opposition questioning the role of the Election Commission and wondering what a used EVM was doing in a BJP leader's car.
Though the seals of the EVM transported in the candidate’s vehicle were found to be "intact" and it was explained subsequently that the polling party was stranded in rain after their vehicle developed a snag, there were obvious violations of the transportation protocol which made a mockery of the electoral process.
For instance, the polling party did not bother to check the antecedents of the passing car which they hailed and in which they took the ride. This, even though the candidate’s name was plastered on the windshield.
As reported by the polling party later, while approaching Karimganj they had to slow down in the bumper to bumper traffic. At this point, a mob of about 50 people gheraoed the car, started abusing them and started pelting stones; when the poll party made inquiries, they were told that they were riding in the vehicle of Krishnendu Paul who is a contesting candidate of a neighbouring constituency (Patharkandi LAC-2); they were further accused of stealing "the EVM so that it could be tampered with".
Curiously, it was only then that the polling party realised something was amiss and alerted the Sector Officer. An EC press note later said the presiding officer was issued show cause notice for violation of the transport protocol; he has also been suspended along with three other officials involved in the movement of the EVM after the polling.
Immediately after receiving information about the incident, DEO Karimganj, along with SP Karimganj, rushed to the spot. On arrival, it was observed that the crowd was pulling out the poll party from the vehicle and were about to assault them, constraining the SP to fire in the air to disperse the mob.
Having wrested control of the situation, the EVM and the poll party were safely escorted out of the area. Curiously, again, the first polling officer was found missing; he apparently sneaked out during the commotion and was subsequently found in the wee hours of the morning hiding in the undergrowth nearby. A search operation was conducted all night to trace his whereabouts.
Later, on examination, the polled EVM, comprising a BU, CU and VVPAT, was found to be untampered with, its seal intact, without any damage whatsoever. "All the items have been deposited in the strong room," the EC statement said.