Aizawl, April 11: “Do you think EVMs can really be tampered? I have begun to doubt the EVMs now,” said an elderly man as he walked towards a polling booth at Chanmari locality in Aizawl to exercise his franchise.
This man may not be a supporter of chief minister Lal Thanhawla and his Congress party, who have been accused of rigging the voting machines in the Assembly polls in November 2013 to achieve a landslide victory. Many other voters are also asking the same question.
Allegations by the Opposition of EVM rigging and strong denial by the ruling party, supported by the election department, was the talk of the town.
The EVM rigging issue started with threatening SMSs sent to chief minister Lal Thanhawla just after the announcement of the Assembly polls results, which saw the Congress winning 34 of the total 40 seats. The SMSs alleged that the Congress’s sweep of the polls was a result of “EVM rigging” and “misuse” of the election machinery. The sender identified himself as Phantom.
The police traced the messages to the mobile phone of Chhawnthuama, a church elder and owner of a reputed school who has built a marble tomb in memory of his late wife, which is dubbed as the Taj Mahal of Aizawl. He confessed to have had sent the messages. He was arrested and is out on bail.
On April 4, Phantom appeared on local television and disclosed what he claimed to be “evidence” of EVM rigging. This time, he went into more details on how the EVMs used in the last state Assembly polls were rigged.
Going by comments on social media and local TV viewers’ forum, the “evidence” provided by Chhawnthuama appeared to have convinced many people.
The following day, thousands took to the streets in Aizawl demanding the resignation of Lal Thanhawla and his MLAs.
Aizawl police on April 8 “discovered” that all the “evidence” provided by Chhawnthuama were based on fabricated information provided by a trickster who they identified as C. Lalbiakmawia, 31, alias Michael Chhakchhuak. According to the police, Chhawnthuama paid Rs 17 lakh to this man for the wrong information.
On April 8, chief minister Lal Thanhawla expressed sympathy for Chhawnthuama. “He is a scapegoat who has been fooled by the Opposition parties. He is a victim. I am praying for him,” he said.