On May 13, when polling took place in Farrukhabad in Uttar Pradesh, the Samajwadi Party alleged bogus votes were being cast in Khiri Pamaran village.

The election officials dismissed the complaint, until a video surfaced six days later showing the son of a Bharatiya Janata Party functionary casting eight votes in favour of the party. The youngster was booked by the police, and the chief electoral officer ordered repolling in the village.

But this was not the only instance of electoral manipulation that the Samajwadi Party had alleged and the election officials had ignored in the constituency.

Last week, as election results rolled in, these complaints acquired fresh significance: the BJP won Farrukhabad with a razor-thin margin of 2,678 votes. Over 10 lakh votes were cast in the constituency.

Would the result have been different had the complaints been taken seriously?

Scroll went to the constituency to find out.

Three weeks after polling, scores of voters still recalled vividly how they had been intimidated and stopped from voting by BJP workers, chased away from polling booths or beaten up after they had voted.

Most of them were Shakya and Yadav voters, who said they had planned to vote for the Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party.

Ashok Yadav, a 40-year-old farmer from Parsupur village, recalled being bullied by Thakurs from Mangadpur village, where the polling booth was located. He identified them as associates of a BJP leader. “They said we will not let you vote and you can enter the village only if you want to get beaten up. We also heard some gunshots being fired from the fields.” Yadav was eventually beaten up. Three weeks later, he was still in the hospital, his ribs bearing the black marks of assault.

Official data examined by Scroll lends credence to the allegations of voter suppression. In villages where these accounts have surfaced, the turnout was significantly lower than neighbouring villages as well as the turnout recorded in previous elections. Not only were fewer votes cast, most of them were cast in favour of the BJP.

Scroll wrote to the Election Commission of India and the Chief Electoral Officer in Lucknow seeking their response to these allegations. This story will be updated if we receive a response.

A village of 500 voters

Nagla Bhaggu falls in the Aliganj block of Etah district. It has nearly a thousand residents, most of them Shakyas, who cultivate potato and maize and are connected to the nearest highway by a dirt road.

The village has about 500 registered voters. But not one of them could vote on May 13, several villagers told Scroll.

For years now, the residents of the village have voted in a polling booth in the neighbouring village of Kadaraganj, which is dominated by Lodhis, a caste group listed as an Other Backward Class in the state. Since 2014, Farrukhabad has been represented by BJP’s Mukesh Rajput, a Lodhi by caste. Shakyas, also an OBC community, are a numerical minority in the area.

On voting day, around 5.30 am, Nagla Bhaggu residents Raghuvir Singh, Krishna Murari, Ramesh and six of their friends reached Kadaraganj.

Murari and Ramesh had been appointed polling agents by the Samajwadi Party candidate at the Kadaraganj polling station, though they were yet to submit their forms to the presiding officer.

“But BJP worker Dhirendra Rajput snatched the forms from us and asked us to get lost,” recalled a glum Raghuvir Singh, squatting in a temple courtyard in Nagla Bhaggu after the election results were declared.

Rajput, a member of the BJP’s booth committee in Kadaraganj, and Lodhi by caste, denied the allegation.

An argument ensued at the polling booth and Singh, Murari and Ramesh held their ground. “We also wanted to vote ourselves and make sure that our village votes too.”

But that did not happen. The men from Nagla Bhaggu said they were not allowed to vote and were chased away by Rajput and other villagers from Kadaraganj.

Raghuvir Singh is a Samajwadi Party worker in Farrukhabad. Photo: Ayush Tiwari

At 8.33 am, the Samajwadi Party tweeted that the presiding officer in Kadaraganj was not permitting the registration of its polling agent. “The Election Commission of India should take cognizance and ensure fair voting,” it said.

Around 9 am, Rajbir Singh, the gram pradhan of Nagla Bhaggu, decided to walk to the Kadaraganj polling centre and take matters in his own hands. “Over there, Dhirendra Rajput and his men told me, ‘If you stare at us, we will gouge your eyes out. If you use your hands, we will chop them,’” said Rajbir. “I told them we were not there to fight but only wanted to vote.”

When the threats did not stop, an intimidated Rajbir decided to return. “On my way back, men with machetes and lathis came out of the corn fields,” he recalled. “It was scary. When I was back in the village, I told people that we could not go there to vote given the circumstances.”

Rajput, the 30-year-old BJP worker, told Scroll: “These are baseless accusations without any proof.”

At 10 am, the Samajwadi Party candidate Naval Kishor Shakya, a 49-year-old cancer surgeon, arrived in the village. He spoke to the media, alleging that Shakya voters were being prevented from voting. Then, more than a hundred men gathered and decided to march together to Kadaraganj with their voter information slips.

This time, they were stopped enroute by police officials from the Nayagaon police station. In a video from the scene, a police official tells the Samajwadi Party candidate and the agitated voters that they should go to the polling centre in pairs. “The crowd will not go together,” he orders over a megaphone.

A police official asks voters in Nagla Bhaggu to go to the Kadaraganj polling centre in pairs. Photo: Screengrab from video

With all options exhausted, Nagla Bhaggu decided to give up. “If we went in pairs, we would have been slaughtered,” said Raghuvir Singh. “We asked for police protection but the official denied it. No one cast their vote. We face more tyranny today than the British Raj.”

The police official in the video is Ritesh Thakur, the station house officer in the Nayagaon police station. “The police did its duty,” he told Scroll. “We did not allow hundreds to march into another village because it could have led to violence.”

He denied that he had suggested the voters should go and vote in pairs. “I said that 5-10 of them can also go together. The edited video does not show that part.”

Rajinder Singh, a farmer in Nagla Bhaggu, however, did not express faith in the police. “The Lodhis are bullies. They are dominant in this region and the Shakyas are a minority. And they are free to bully us because the administration is in their hands and so is the police.”

BJP politician Mukesh Rajput has been the member of Parliament from Farrukhabad since 2014. The party fielded him again in 2024. Although he won, his victory margin shrunk from 2 lakh votes in 2019 to just 2,678 votes this time.

“In 2014, when there was a Samajwadi Party government in UP, we voted for the BJP. No one stopped us then,” Rajendra said. “The Lodhis did not harass us in 2019, when most of us voted for the BJP. But this time they have attacked our self-respect because we wanted to vote for the SP.”

Rajendra Singh said voters in Nagla Bhaggu were not allowed to vote because of their preference for the Samajwadi Party. Photo: Ayush Tiwari

Suppression visible in turnout data?

The alleged suppression of Nagla Bhaggu’s voters has left an imprint on the voter turnout at the Kadaraganj polling centre.

According to the booth-level data shared with candidates by the returning officer, the centre has 1,237 registered voters, but only 689 votes were cast – a turnout of 55.6%. Scroll has seen a copy of this data.

The turnout is significantly lower than the previous elections. The Kadaraganj polling centre recorded a turnout of 84.9% in the 2022 Assembly elections, 78.3% in the 2019 general elections and 86.7% in the 2017 Assembly elections, according to official booth-level data available with the Election Commission of India.

There was no such dip in the voter turnout in the neighbouring villages of Bani, Aliyapur and Mihuta, where the Samajwadi Party did not allege voter suppression.

The fall in voter turnout has come at the cost of the Samajwadi Party’s vote share while increasing the BJP’s vote share.

Out of 689 votes at the Kadaraganj polling centre, BJP’s Mukesh Rajput got 659 votes, shows the booth-level data. Shakya of the Samajwadi Party, who was a favourite in Nagla Bhaggu, could only manage 24 votes.

In 2022, when Nagla Bhaggu voters said they had voted mostly for the BJP, the Samajwadi Party had still managed 206 votes at the Kadaraganj polling centre, ECI data shows.

“The SP has not lost the Farrukhabad election,” said Rajendra Singh. “The election victory has been stolen from the SP.”

The Yadavs in Mangadpur

Three Yadav-dominant villages in Aliganj – Nagla Gangi, Parsupur and Binaura – met a similar fate as Nagla Bhaggu.

In this election, these villages were scheduled to vote at a polling centre in the Thakur-dominated Mangadpur village.

Till 2017, the polling centre for electors in Nagla Gangi, Parsupur, Binaura and Mangadpur villages was in Parsupur. But Mangadpur got its own polling centre before the 2019 general elections. In the run-up to the 2024 general elections, the Parsupur polling centre was scrapped and its electors were transferred to the Mangadpur polling centre.

Harbir Yadav, 42, the gram pradhan of Parsupur, told Scroll that there were rumours before the polls that the Thakurs in Mangadpur will not allow Yadavs in neighbouring villages to vote. “In April, we wrote to Naval Kishor Shakya to persuade the administration to not merge the Parsupur polling centre with the one in Mangadpur,” he said. “The Thakurs vote for the BJP and the administration is on their side. But nothing happened.”

The rumours came true.

At 9 am on May 13, Ashok Yadav, the 40-year-old farmer, left his home in Parsupur to vote. Nearly 30 men from Nagla Gangi and Binaura villages accompanied him.

“Just before we reached Mangadpur village, about eight men came out of the maize fields,” Ashok Yadav recalled. “They were Thakurs from the village. They said we will not let you vote and you can enter the village only if you want to get beaten up. We also heard some gunshots being fired from the fields.”

The Yadav men turned around and returned to their villages. They alerted the additional district magistrate of Farrukhabad who arrived in Mangadpur around 1.30 pm. “ADM sahab’s arrival with some police officials brought some peace,” Yadav continued. “We went back to vote around 3 pm, this time in a tractor.”

Ashok Yadav was first prevented from voting and then assaulted for it. Photo: Ayush Tiwari

Ashok Yadav finally cast his vote in Mangadpur. As he walked out with his neighbours, the men who had accosted him in the morning emerged from the fields and began assaulting him with lathis, he said.

“These men are BJP workers working for Satya Prakash Singh Rathore, and his son Gaurav,” Yadav added. “Satya Prakash is an aide of Satyapal Singh Rathore, the BJP MLA from Aliganj.”

Satya Prakash Singh Rathore, 52, confirmed to Scroll that he is a BJP worker. His son, Gaurav Rathore, is the president of the BJP booth committee in Mangadpur, he said.

“It is wrong to say that there was any violence on polling day,” said Rathore. “There was a tiff in the evening when Yadavs and Shakyas raised slogans like ‘BJP murdabad, SP zindabad’, but everyone cast their vote.”

On his relationship with the BJP MLA, Rathore said: “I know him because he is from our biradari. But I am only a small party worker.”

Aliganj MLA Satyapal Singh Rathore did not respond to calls for comment.

Left to right: Mangadpur BJP booth committee president Gaurav Singh Rathore, Aliganj MLA Satyapal Singh Rathore and Gaurav’s father Satya Prakash Singh Rathore.

That evening, the Samajwadi Party social media handles flagged that its workers were beaten at the Mangadpur polling centre and thrown out.

Among those accused by Yadav voters of taking part in the violent voter suppression was a Mangadpur resident, Thakur Anil Singh.

That day, he shared a screenshot of the Samajwadi Party’s post as a Facebook story, annotating it with the phrases “the power of Thakur” and “dabdaba” – domination. “The name of Thakur village is trending,” he wrote in the caption.

The station house officer of Nayagaon police station, Ritesh Thakur, told Scroll that the Yadavs in Nagla Gangi, Parsupur and Binaura clashed on May 13 with the Thakurs in Mangadpur because of old caste feuds. “When the polling centre was in Parsupur, the Yadavs had tried to prevent the Thakurs from voting,” he said. “This time, we intervened and everyone could vote by the end of polling.”

Harbir Yadav, the gram pradhan of Parsupur, disagreed. “Such an incident has never happened before,” he said. “When the Thakurs came here to vote in our village, we would sit down and banter with them over hookah. Things never became violent.”

Satya Prakash Singh Rathore, too, said that the Yadavs did not stop Thakurs from voting when the polling centre was in Parsupur.

Dip in turnout pulls up BJP vote share

More than 20 days after the incident, Ashok Yadav is still in the hospital, his ribs bearing the black marks of assault. His experience made most voters in Parsupur, Nagla Gangi and Binaura reluctant to vote in Mangadpur on May 13, residents of the villages told Scroll.

“The Yadavs in these three villages have more than 700 votes,” said Harbir Yadav, the gram pradhan. “But hardly about 240 of us could vote that day. This is their tanashahi.”

Like Kadaraganj, the Mangadpur polling centre saw an abnormal drop in voter turnout on polling day. From 59.1% in 2017, 65.1% in 2019 and 70.1% in 2022, it fell to 47.4% in 2024. Once again, the polling centres in nearby villages – Nagla Moch, Fardpura and Akbarpur – did not report any such trend.

Here, too, the drop in voter turnout has pulled down the Samajwadi Party’s vote share and increased the vote share of the BJP.

Of the 552 votes cast at the Mangadpur polling centre on May 13, the BJP candidate got 317 votes and the Samajwadi Party candidate got 227 votes, shows the booth-level data. In the 2022 Assembly polls, when the Yadavs in Nagla Gangi, Parsupur and Binaura voted in the Parsupur polling centre, and not in Mangadpur, the Samajwadi Party received 430 votes, ECI data shows.

‘No resolution’

On May 16, Naval Kishore Shakya wrote a letter to the Election Commission in Delhi, the UP chief electoral officer in Lucknow and the returning officer in Farrukhabad, laying out the electoral manipulation charges in Mangadpur, Kadaraganj and Khiri Pamaran.

“There was no resolution,” Shakya told Scroll.

Naval Kishor Shakya was the Samajwadi Party candidate in Farrukhabad. Photo: Ayush Tiwari

The Samajwadi Party’s Twitter handle flagged similar complaints of voter suppression in six other booths in Farrukhabad. This includes polling stations 377, 378, 382, 338, 176 in Aliganj assembly segment and polling station 283 in Amritput assembly segment. It also alleged bogus voting in three polling stations – 172 in Aliganj and 84 and 85 in Bhojpur assembly segment.

Turnout data shared by the Election Commission with candidates shows that in Aliganj, polling stations 377 and 378 at the Nayagaon panchayat ghar saw sharp dips in the number of votes cast on May 13, when compared to the turnout in previous elections. As did polling station 382 in Pahadpur village and polling station 338 in Fatehpur village. In three booths, most of the votes went to the BJP, while in the fourth, Samajwadi Party got most of the votes.

Polling stations 172 in Angraiya village and 176 in Nagla Sakhtu did not record an unusual drop in voter turnout. Most votes in polling station 172 went to the BJP and the Samajwadi Party got more votes in 176.

In Jyonta village in Bhojpur assembly, the voter turnout increased by 2% in polling station 84 and fell by 2% in polling station 85, compared to 2022. The BJP got the majority of votes in both the polling stations.

In polling station 283 in Pamarkhiriya village in Amritpur assembly, the voter turnout increased by 2% this year than in 2022. The Samajwadi Party got most of the votes here.

The Samajwadi Party has also expressed doubts over the counting process in Farrukhabad on June 4. That evening, the party had tweeted that its candidate had won the polls but the district magistrate had not handed him the certificate of election. A couple of hours later, Akhilesh Yadav alleged that the district administration was “trying to defeat the winning SP candidates by cutting off electricity” during the counting process – a claim denied by the district magistrate.