Hours after the incident of EVM being transported in a BJP MLA’s private car triggered controversy in poll-bound Assam, the Election Commission of India released a statement on the sequence of events that took place on Thursday night after the second phase of voting concluded in the state.
A ruckus broke out in Assam’s Karimganj on Thursday after locals found an EVM being transported in a vehicle that belonged to BJP candidate Krishnendu Paul. The polling officials reportedly took a ride in the Mahindra Bolero, registered in the name of Paul’s family member, some three kilometres from Karimganj after their own vehicle broke down midway on the way to Patharkandi Vidhan Sabha.
Seeing that the car carrying EVM did not belong to the EC officials, locals intercepted the vehicle and attacked the occupants with bamboo poles and sticks, creating tensions in the region. Security forces that reached the spot were also reportedly attacked with stones and police had to fire in the air to disperse the crowd.
The ECI, in its statement dated April 2, narrated the sequence of events, providing a factual report on the incident involving the EVM at Karimganj. Although seals of the EVM was found intact, the EC has ordered repolling at No. 149 Ratabari as an added precaution, apart from suspending the four polling officials deputed in the region.
1. The polling party of No. 149- Indira MV School of LAC 1 Ratabari (SC) met with an unfortunate incident on Thursday, April 1. The polling party comprised of a Presiding Officer and three polling personnel, accompanied by the police a constable and a home guard. At about 9 pm, the vehicle which had been allotted to the polling party by the transport cell of the election branch broke down and the officials became detached from its convoy.
2. Around 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 officials, they moved towards Karimganj and as they reached Kanaishil in Karimgan, they had to slow down in the traffic.
3. As they slowed down, they were surrounded by a mob of about 50 people who 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 Sri Krishnendu Paul who is a contesting candidate of a neighbouring constituency (Patharkandi LAC-2) and he levelled allegations 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.
4. Immediately after receiving information about the incident, DEO Karimganj along with SP Karimganj rushed to the spot and reached there at 10:20 pm. Also in the meantime, 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.
5. On arrival at the spot, it was observed that the crowd was pulling out the polling party and were about to assault them. The mob had turned violent and had damaged the glass of the vehicle by stone-pelting. During the course of the stone pelting, SP Karimganj sustained minor injuries on his collarbone and blank firing had to be resorted to dispersing the mob. The first polling officer was found missing in the commotion, the EVM’s and the remaining polling party were safely escorted from the area and taken into the control of the DEO at 11:20 pm.
6. On examination, the polled EVM comprising of BU, CU and VVPAT were found to be with its seal intact without any damage whatsoever. All the items have been deposited in the strong room.
7. The first polling officer was missing until the wee hours of the morning of 02 April 2021 as he was hiding in the undergrowth nearby and a search operation was being conducted all night. This delayed the transmission of this report by a few hours.
8. In this regard, the Presiding Officer was issued a show-cause notice for violation of the transport protocol. Thereafter, the PO & three other officials have been placed under suspension. Although the seals of the EVM were found intact, it has nevertheless been decided to do a re-poll at No. 149- Indira M.V. School of LAC 1 Ratabari (SC) as an added precaution. A report has also been sought from the Special Observer.