No deliberate or mala fide intention to disrupt poll process: EC's special observer on Assam EVM row

By PTI
KARIMGANJ/HAILAKANDI: A magisterial probe has been ordered to determine why a polling team in Assam carried an EVM in a vehicle owned by the wife of a BJP candidate, officials said on Saturday.

Karimganj District Deputy Superintendent Anbamuthan MP issued an order on Friday night to probe the incident, which has snowballed into a huge controversy amid the ongoing Assam assembly elections, the last phase of which is slated for Tuesday.

Additional District Magistrate Rajeshan Terang has been asked to conduct the enquiry and submit a detailed report within three days.

“…This incident posed a threat to security of the polled EVMs and has an adverse effect on the law and order situation,” the order said.

The probe will also find out the circumstances leading to the poll party travelling in a private vehicle, and ascertain whether there was any lapse or conspiracy on the part of the authorities.

Violence had broken out on the outskirts of Karimganj town on Thursday night after a crowd spotted a BJP candidate’s vehicle being used to transport a polled EVM to the strong room, prompting the police to fire in the air to bring the situation under control.

The poll team from Ratabari constituency claimed that its official vehicle broke down midway, forcing them to ask for a lift from a passing vehicle, which turned out to be that of the wife of BJP’s Patharkandi candidate.

Sitting MLA Krishnendu Paul is the BJP candidate from the Patharkandi seat, while Ratabari is currently represented by his party MLA Bijoy Malakar, who is contesting the election as well.

Ratabari and Patharkandi constituencies went to the polls in the second phase on Thursday.

The Election Commission has suspended four election officials and ordered repolling at the booth.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah has also sought an inquiry by the commission.

Meanwhile, police arrested at least six persons for allegedly live streaming the violence that had erupted after the incident, and inciting the mob to attack the private vehicle in which the poll party was travelling with three units of the EVM from 149 Indira MV School in Ratabari.

“We are identifying the people who were seen attacking the vehicle in the videos…more arrests are likely,” a senior police official said.

Opposition Congress and the AIUDF have slammed the authorities for the incident, and alleged that the EVM was being “stolen”.

Demanding an explanation and immediate action, Assam Congress chief Ripun Bora said the party will consider boycotting the election if “this open loot and rigging of EVMs” does not stop immediately.