Staff Correspondent

Returning Officer reverses his own announcement

Congress had claimed that a bundle of 500-odd votes was left out Congress lodged complaint with State Election Commission Janata Dal (Secular) strength reduced to seven seats

RAICHUR: Returning Officer in-charge of Sindhanur taluk Umesh Kusgal on Saturday declared Gangamma of the Congress as elected from the Ragalparvi zilla panchayat constituency under dramatic circumstances. The Congress is tally now 28 in the 35-member Raichur Zilla Panchayat. The Janata Dal (Secular) now has only seven seats.

On Tuesday, he announced the election of Nazim Imtiyaz of the Janata Dal (Secular) from the constituency. But the Congress had contested his announcement and threatened to move the court.

Mr. Kusgal told The Hindu that while reviewing an objection filed by the Congress, he found some arithmetical error in the counting of votes polled in respect of elections held for the Ragalparvi zilla panchayat constituency in Sindhanur taluk.

He said that while using his powers vested under Section 7 of the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Act, he ordered for a rectification in the counting of votes. On verification, he found that a bundle of 532 ballot papers from a counting table had not been taken into account by oversight. These votes have gone in favour of Ms. Gangamma.

After a final tally of polled votes, it was announced that Ms.Gangamma won with a margin of 193 votes.

Earlier, a group of Congress leaders, led by Hampangouda Badarli, Sindhanur MLA, and K. Veerupakshappa, Koppal MP, took out a protest march on Thursday in Sindhanur and submitted a memorandum to Assistant Commissioner P.C. Zaffer alleging that the Returning Officer had committed a mistake by announcing the election results without verifying the votes polled. They claimed that their party candidate had secured 544 votes more than the Janata Dal (S) candidate as per the list of votes tallied by the party's agents during counting.

Mr. Kusgal has not been able to convince the leaders of the Congress that the announcement of the result by him in respect of Ragalparvi taluk panchayat seat was correct.

The Congress workers, led by Ms. Gangamma, started an indefinite dharna in the premises of the Tahsildhar's office at Sindhanur on Friday demanding the Returning Officer to withdraw the certificate issued to the Janata Dal (S) candidate and order recounting of votes.

Deputy Commissioner and the District Election Officer Tushar Girinath told The Hindu on Saturday that he was aware of the problem after the announcement of results for the Ragalparvi zilla panchayat constituency. He never interferes in the powers vested with the Returning Officer.

Mr. Girinath said neither he nor the State Election Commission have powers to review the results announced by the Returning Officer. Only the court can decide the matter, he said.

Mr. Badarli said the Returning Officer had done injustice while announcing the election results. The Returning Officer had announced the results even when the Congress had raised its objections for leaving a bundle of ballot papers unaccounted. He demanded action against the Returning Officer.

He told The Hindu on Saturday that his party has filed a complaint with the State Election Commission. He said his party planned to file a petition in the High Court challenging the announcement of the result.