Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP Priyanka Chaturvedi on Friday reacted to the EVM (Electronic Voting Machine) "stealing" controversy in Assam. She said that repolling and suspension of a few Election Commission officials "does not address the larger problem of certain EC officials colluding and conspiring with political parties that are powerful and rich".
She questioned, "How can a voter’s faith in democracy & the power of his vote be maintained if the issue goes unaddressed?"
"This one incident got caught on camera hence the action, there have been several instances in the past that have exposed the flaw. With no serious introspection by ECI & the election outcomes now dependent merely on hope does not bode well for any elected democracy," Chaturvedi further said.
What is the EVM controversy?
After completion of polling at 6 pm on Thursday at a polling booth in Ratabari seat of Assam, the polling party left in a vehicle provided by election authorities and was escorted by an armed escort. It was raining heavily and their vehicle developed a snag.
"Due to the traffic congestion and the prevailing weather condition, the party became detached from its convoy," the Election Commission said in a statement. The polling party got down from the vehicle and asked the sector officer over phone to arrange for a new vehicle.
While the sector officer was arranging for the new vehicle, the 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. The polling party hailed a passing vehicle and boarded it along with the EVM -- ballot unit (BU), control unit (CU) and paper trail machine (VVPAT)-- and other things without checking the ownership of the vehicle.
As reported by the polling party, they moved towards Karimganj and 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 alleged that "the EVM was being taken to be tampered with. "
"It was only then that they realised that something was amiss and alerted the sector officer. However, a larger crowd had gathered by then and they were attacked and held hostage by a mob along with the EVM in the vehicle at 2145 hrs alleging that the EVM was being taken to be tampered with," the statement said.
"In the meanwhile, the antecedents of the vehicle were ascertained and it was found to be was registered in the name of Madhumita Paul, wife of contesting candidate, Patharkandi LAC No 2, Krishnendu Paul," the statement said.
Police reached the spot along with the district election officer and used force to pull out the polling party. Later, on examination, the polled EVM comprising BU, CU and VVPAT was found to be with its seal intact without any damage whatsoever. "All the items have been deposited in the strong room," the statement said.
Election Commission suspends officials, orders repoll:
The Election Commission has on Friday ordered a repoll at the Indira M.V. School polling station in Ratabari seat of Assam. The EC also said that the presiding officer and three other officials have been placed under suspension.
My driver simply helped polling officials: BJP candidate Krishnendu Paul
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate Krishnendu Paul on Friday denied allegations of stealing the EVM (Electronic Voting Machine), and said that his driver simply helped the polling officials because they had sought help.
"My driver was in the car. Polling officials asked him for help and he obliged. There was a pass pasted on my car that said I am a BJP candidate. I can't say whether the polling officials were aware of this or not. We simply helped," Paul told India Today.
(With PTI inputs)