A delay in electronic voting machines reaching the collection centre in Sagar district of Madhya Pradesh has led to allegations of wrongdoing from Opposition parties. Several Congress workers protested outside the collection centre on Friday after the machines arrived there two days after polling for the Assembly elections closed, NDTV reported. State Home Minister Bhupendra Singh of the Bharatiya Janata Party is the MLA from Khurai, where the machines were kept.
The Congress alleged on Saturday that the EVMs were taken to a hotel owned by Singh before being brought to the collection centre. In response, the chief electoral officer of Madhya Pradesh tweeted that the polling officer who took the machines to the hotel has been suspended and a disciplinary inquiry ordered. He said these EVMs were not used during polling.
The chief electoral officer said that these machines were kept as “reserve” in case EVMs being used for polling malfunctioned. “Such machines were to be stored separately from polled EVMs,” he said. Commenting on the lack of a registration place, the chief electoral officer said the matter is under inquiry, but the security of EVMs was not endangered.
“In Madhya Pradesh home minister’s area, EVMs were deposited using a bus without a registration plate, 48 hours after polling,” the Madhya Pradesh Congress tweeted. “Is this a conspiracy by the government to ensure a BJP win?”
“The objective of this was ostensibly to deposit these machines with the office of the collector,” Congress MP Vivek Tankha said, according to PTI. “These spare EVMs were to be deposited two hours after the polls and not after two days. This happened in the Khuria seat from where the state home minister is contesting the polls.”
Tankha also claimed there was no electricity in a strong room in Bhopal for over an hour, and the CCTV cameras also stopped functioning during the period.
Reacting to the development, Congress and Aam Aadmi Party workers rushed to the spot and demanded an investigation. India Today reported on Saturday that the workers had been camping outside the strong room since Friday, fearing attempts at tampering from the BJP.
State Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia asked all “brave” workers to guard the EVMs inside the strong room till December 11, so that no BJP conspiracy will be successful. The votes will be counted on December 11.
But the chief electoral officer for Madhya Pradesh said that Bhopal District Collector Sudam Khade had inquired into the matter, and found that the strong room was secure. “The strong room is intact and jointly guarded by police force and political parties,” he tweeted.
Congress delegation meets poll panel
A Congress delegation met the Election Commission in New Delhi on Saturday to protest against the security of EVMs inside strong rooms and their handling during the counting process for the Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh elections, PTI reported.
Congress leader PL Punia, who is in charge of the party’s campaign in Chhattisgarh, claimed that people with laptops and mobile phones were seen around the strong rooms where the EVMs were kept, on the pretext of repairing the CCTVs. He said the party had reported this to the chief electoral officer in Raipur.
As much as 74% voting was recorded in the Madhya Pradesh elections, higher than in 2013.