Congress raises doubts over poll process in Assam

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi   | Photo Credit: PTI

The Congress on Friday questioned the electoral process in Assam after a polled electronic voting machine (EVM) was being transported in the vehicle of a BJP candidate, with party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi asking for a “serious re-evaluation” of the use of EVMs by all national parties.

Violence broke out in Karimganj district on Thursday night after a crowd discovered that the vehicle of Krishnendu Paul, the BJP candidate from Patharkandi, was being used to transport the EVM to the strong room. 

While the police is reported to have fired in the air to bring the situation under control, the Election Commission (EC) ordered a re-poll in the particular booth where the polled EVM was located and suspended four polling officials. 

A Congress delegation, led by former Law Minister Ashwani Kumar, met the Election Commission (EC) and raised the Karimganj incidents as well as the defection of an Opposition candidate to the BJP just days before polling. 

“Every time there is an election, videos of private vehicles caught transporting EVMs show up. Unsurprisingly they have the following things in common: 1. The vehicles usually belong to BJP candidates or their associates. 2. The videos are taken as one off incidents and dismissed as aberrations 3. The BJP uses its media machinery to accuse those who exposed the videos as sore losers,” Ms. Vadra alleged.

The Congress leader’s comments could restart the debate on the use of EVMs. In August 2018, at an all-party meeting convened by the Election Commission (EC), Opposition parties had demanded a return to paper ballots.

“The fact is that too many such incidents are being reported and nothing is being done about them. The EC needs to start acting decisively on these complaints and a serious re-evaluation of the use of EVM’s needs to be carried out by all national parties,” Ms. Vadra added. 

However, Karimganj Deputy Commissioner Anbamuthan M.P. said it was a minor incident involving a polling party from a polling station in the adjoining Ratabari constituency. 

“The vehicle from the polling station to the district headquarters broke down about 20 km away at Nilambazar. The polling party was waiting for transport to come when a private vehicle was passing by. The driver stopped and offered a lift since he was going in the same direction. While we were organising another vehicle to bring them, the presiding officer took the offer to reach Karimganj. The vehicle was mobbed by some people near the headquarters and it was only then that the presiding officer realised his folly,” he told The Hindu on Friday, adding that the vehicle was registered in the name of the Patharkandi MLA’s wife.

Taking a swipe at the EC, former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi tweeted, “EC's car has broken down, the BJP’s intentions are bad and the condition of democracy has worsened.”

While Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the “EVM fraud” was there for all to see and asked whether the EC needed the BJP’s help to carry EVMs, Lok Sabha MP Manish Tewari demanded a probe by a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) to find out ‘collusion’ between officials and the ruling party. “If the ECI doesn't wake up even now and remains mute or complicit, it is fatal for democracy,” Mr. Surjewala said.

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Printable version | May 10, 2021 1:19:43 PM |

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