New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: The Election Commission on Friday suspended 4 polling officers, who were deputed in Assam's Karimganj district during the second phase of polling on Thursday after they were found transporting a polled EVM in a private vehicle belonging to BJP MLA Krishnendu Paul. The Election Commission also ordered repolling at 149-Indira MV School of LAC 1 Ratabari (SC) polling booth in Karimganj district

Violence broke out in Assam on Thursday evening after a massive mob, mainly of opposition supporters, attacked a private vehicle carrying polled EVM in the Karimganj area. The EVM was being carried in the car, which belonged to a BJP MLA after the EC vehicle broke down and officials took a lift in the passing car. 

According to the Election Commission's factual report of the incident, polling party 149-Indira MV School of LAC 1 Ratabari (SC) met with an incident. The polling party comprised a Presiding Officer and 3 polling personnel. They were accompanied by police personnel comprising a constable and a home guard, while the polling team was returning to the strongroom after the conclusion of the second phase of polling.

"At about 9:20 pm, the polling party hailed a passing vehicle and boarded it along with their EVM and other things without checking ownership of the vehicle. As reported by them, they moved towards Karimganj and as they reached Kanaishil, Karimganj at 11:00 pm, they had to slow down in traffic", the EC said. 

"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", it added.

"When they asked the leader of the mob, he replied that it was a vehicle of Krishnendu Paul, a contesting candidate of Patharkandi and he levelled allegations that EVM was being taken to be tampered with. They realised that something was amiss and alerted the Sector Officer".

"On examination, the polled EVM comprising of 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 EC said in its factual report. 

Following the incident, the Karimganj police have registered an FIR against unknown persons for attacking the car. According to the poll officials, the EVM is secure as are the election personnel travelling inside the car. The incident happened hours after the second phase of polling concluded in Assam in 39 constituencies across 13 districts, in which a voter turnout of 74.76 per cent was recorded.

The incident took place after the official vehicle of the polling team posted in Karimganj's Ratanari constituency broke down on the team's way back to the strong room after the end of voting. The polling team, then, reportedly took a lift on a private vehicle, which incidentally belonged to BJP MLA and a candidate from Patharkandi constituency Krishnendu Paul. According to reports, the car was registered in the name of Krishendu Paul's kin.

After the car reached the area where the strong room is situated, supporters from the opposition parties identified the BJP MLA vehicle and gheraoed the car. The police team preset at the spot immediately rushed for the safety of the vehicle and its occupants. The mob later attacked the vehicle with lathis and stones were also pelted at the vehicle. The police even resorted to open fire in the air to disperse the violent crowd.

A controversy erupted following the incident with opposition leaders accusing the BJP of EVM capturing. Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Friday said the Election Commission needs to start acting decisively on reports of private vehicles transporting electronic voting machines, and a serious re-evaluation of the use of EVMs needs to be carried out by all national parties.

"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," the Congress general secretary tweeted.

Meanwhile, AIUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal also attacked the ruling BJP and said that 'stealing EVMs was the BJP's last resort after all its other moves -- "polarisation", "buying votes", "doublespeak on CAA", among others -- had failed'.

The second phase polling for assembly elections in Assam concluded on Thursday with a voter turnout of 74.69 per cent, said the election commission. The highest turnout was recorded at 83.10 per cent at Nowgong while the lowest turnout was 63.53 per cent in Jamunamukh.

Posted By: Talibuddin Khan