Repoll in Assam’s Ratabari after viral video shows EVM machine in car with Assam BJP MLA

All four officers of the polling party have been placed under suspension for breaching the Election Commission's transport protocol
Krishnendu Paul; a screen grab of the video
Krishnendu Paul; a screen grab of the video

The Election Commission (EC) today has ordered fresh voting for a polling station in the Ratabari Assembly seat of Assam after reports emerged yesterday night of an EVM being transported in a private vehicle belonging to Patharkandi BJP candidate Krishnendu Paul. The Election Commission today suspended four poll after the electronic voting machine used to cast the ballots was found in a car belonging to the BJP MLA. The presiding officer, who was responsible for the transportation of the EVM, was among those suspended. The incident had led to violence in Karimganj district where the seat is located.

A viral video, shared by an Assam-based journalist on social media, allegedly captures an electronic voting machine (EVM) in the car of Krishnendu Paul hours after the second phase of polling concluded in Assam on Thursday.

A polling team posted in Karimganj's Ratanari constituency was on their way back to the strong room after the end of voting in the Election Commission-assigned vehicle when it broke down. Although the presiding officer, who contacted the sector officer for a replacement vehicle was assured of one, the polling staff, however, raising brows, inexplicably hitched a ride with the BJP MLA’s vehicle. Opposition supporters, on recognising the vehicle, which was on its way to the strong room, mobbed it. The vehicle’s driver and the police staff are said to have run for safety.

Police had to resort to firing blank shots in the air and baton-charging the mob, which surrounded the car. According to authorities, the EVM is secure and has not been tampered with.

An FIR has been lodged on unknown persons who attacked the car carrying the polled EVM.

According to EC, the officers realised their mistake only after the car was intercepted by a group of 50 people near Kanaishil in Karimganj. “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,” states EC’s release.

A report by the poll body said that upon examination, the seal of the EVM was found intact “without any damage whatsoever”.

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi said the Election Commission should act decisively on such complaints and that a serious re-evaluation of the use of EVMs needs to be carried out by all national parties. She added that every time private vehicles are caught transporting EVMs during the elections, the vehicles usually belong to BJP candidates or their associates.

“The videos are taken as one-off incidents and dismissed as aberrations. The BJP uses its media machinery to accuse those who exposed the videos as sore losers. The fact is that too many such incidents are being reported and nothing is being done about them,” she said in a tweet.

Congress MP from Assam Gaurav Gogoi also attacked the BJP saying the only way the BJP can win Assam is by looting EVMs. "This is the only way the BJP can win Assam: by looting EVMs. EVM capturing, like there used to be booth capturing. All under the nose of the Election Commission. Sad day for democracy," he said.

Assam Congress chief Ripun Bora, who retweeted the video said that the “open loot and rigging of EVMs” has to stop immediately. He also threatened that the party would boycott the election otherwise.

“We expect the Election Commission to take immediate action and explain how this could happen. The Congress party will consider boycotting the election if this open loot and rigging of EVMs does not stop immediately,” Bora tweeted.

The Election Commission has, meanwhile, suspended four poll officers including the presiding officer.

On Thursday, 39 assembly seats went to polls in Assam in the second phase of the election.

The NationWide