Six polling officials have been suspended in Assam after the Election Commission found that 181 votes had been cast at a booth in Dima Hasao district that had only 90 registered voters.
The booth is in the Haflong constituency that voted in the second phase on April 1. Officially the constituency – won by the BJP’s Bir Bhadra Hagjer in 2016 – recorded only 74 per cent polling.
Sources said the poll body plans to issue a re-poll order for this booth, which was an auxiliary polling station for the main centre. An official order to this effect has yet to be issued.
“The Presiding and 1st Polling officer, in their statements, have admitted that they allowed the voters registered against the main polling station to cast their votes in the auxiliary polling station,” a press release from the Election Commission said.
According to news agency PTI, Seikhosiem Lhangum (Sector Officer), Prahlad Ch Roy (Presiding Officer), Parameswar Charangsa (1st Polling Officer), Swaraj Kanti Das (2nd Polling Officer) and Lalzamlo Thiek (3rd Polling Officer) have been suspended, with immediate effect.
The poll body cited “dereliction of duty” in its suspension order.
This will be the second instance of re-polling ordered by the Election Commission in Assam this year, after it directed a new round of voting for the Ratabari seat.
That was after images of election officials transporting an EVM (electronic voting machine) in a BJP BJP candidate’s car triggered controversy. The four officials involved were also suspended.
The incident also led to violence in Karimganj district, where the seat is located. The car belonged to the wife of Krishnendu Paul, a BJP contestant in nearby Patharkandi.
As they sought to explain the incident, the Election Commission also said “the polled EVM comprising of BU, CU and VVPAT was found with its seal intact without any damage whatsoever”.
The opposition cited the incident to allege “EVM capturing” by the ruling BJP. The Congress’s Gaurav Gogoi led the way, tweeting: “This is the only way the BJP can win Assam”.
Assam is holding a three-phase Assembly election that began on March 27. The second phase was held last week and the third, and final, phase, is scheduled for Tuesday.
The ruling BJP is bidding for re-election and is fighting a challenge from the Congress-led ‘mahajot‘, or opposition alliance, that includes former ally BPF, or Bodoland People’s Front.
Results of the election will be declared on May 2.
With input from PTI