The Election Commission has suspended a Bengal election officer who slept with an electronic voting machine (EVM) and VVPAT at the house of a Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader ahead of the third phase of West Bengal Assembly elections.
Howrah district’s Sector 17 in AC 177 Uluberia Utta officer Tapan Sarkar was in possession of a reserved EVM when he was staying at a relative’s house overnight. The EC said in a statement that Sarkar violated the Commission’s instructions. “This is a gross violation of EC's instructions for which he has been suspended and charges will be framed for major punishment,” Election Commission said.
The Commission added that the said EVM and VVPAT have been taken out of the stock and would not be used in the West Bengal elections. The EC said that the sector police attached to Tapan is suspended. The election body has also informed that General Observer Neeraj Pawan has checked all seals of the EVMs, which has been stored in a separate room under the observer's custody.
The Bengal EVM incident comes days after an EVM was found in a BJP leader’s private vehicle in Assam. The EC ordered the suspension of four officials and repolling was ordered in one election booth. West Bengal is already witnessing a heated election and this incident is just adding fuel to the fire. The TMC and BJP have been accusing each other of manipulating the election system for their advantage.
The third phase of polling has begun in 31 Assembly constituencies of West Bengal including eight in Hooghly, seven in Howrah and 16 in South 24 Parganas. A total of 205 candidates are contesting in these constituencies. West Bengal is an eight-phase election with the fourth phase on April 10 and the vote counting will take place on May 2.