Howrah | Jagran News Desk: The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Tuesday suspended the sector officer amid the ongoing third phase of the West Bengal Assembly polls after four Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and four VVPATs were found at the residence of Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader in Uluberia.

The incident happened in Tulsiberia village in the Uluberia Uttar assembly segment, he said. Villagers spotted a vehicle with an Election Commission sticker outside the house of the TMC leader in the early hours, after which they started protesting, he added. Then, it was found that the officer of sector 17 Tapan Sarkar was visiting the TMC leader's house with the EVMs, the official said.

"This is a gross violation of EC's instructions for which he has been suspended and charges will be framed for major punishment. The said EVM and VVPAT have been taken out of the stock and shall not be used in the polls. Severe action will be taken against all involved. We have sought a report from the District Election Officer" read an EC statement.

These EVMs have now been stored in a separate room in Observer's custody. The EC has also directed the suspension of the Sector Police attached to the Sector Officer.

The sector officer claimed that he reached the area very late and found the polling booth closed, following that he decided to spend the night at his relative's residence, unable to find any "safe place" to stay. A huge team of central forces had to be deployed in the area as the locals protested, alleging malpractices. Even the Block Development Officer (BDO) was gheraoed when he had reached the spot to pacify the crowd.

BJP candidate Chiran Bera alleged that the incident was part of TMC's plan to rig the election, a charge denied by the ruling party. BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said, "This is an old habit of the TMC. It takes time to get over the old habits. They have been caught red-handed and it shows what they are up to."

A total of 31 Assembly constituencies in districts including eight in Hooghly, seven in Howrah and 16 in South 24 Parganas are going to polls in phase-III. There are 205 candidates in the fray in this round of polling. Polling for the first two phases of the West Bengal elections was held on March 27 and April 1 respectively. The fourth phase of polling will take place on April 10. The counting of votes will take place on May 2.

Posted By: Talibuddin Khan