|The EVM-loaded vehicle at Mahakalpada. Telegraph picture
Kendrapara, April 18: BJP workers today roughed up the Marshaghai block development officer (BDO) and heckled some other senior district officials after a vehicle loaded with electronic voting machines (EVM) was found parked at the BDO’s residence.
The violence, the first major case after the polling was held in the district yesterday, has added to the mounting tension over the contest in the Mahakalpada Assembly constituency where chief minister Naveen Patnaik is engaged in a proxy battle with his bete noire Bijoy Mohapatra of the BJP.
Sources said tension mounted after local people and BJP workers had spotted an EVM-loaded vehicle parked in front of the BDO’s residence. The EVMs had Kendrapara Lok Sabha and Mahakalpada Assembly written on them.
BJP workers, who sought the intervention of the chief electoral officer in the matter, staged a roadblock, paralysing vehicular movement on Cuttack-Chandbali state highway and Paradip-Daitary expressway. The mob, consisting mostly of the BJP workers, also beat up the BDO and pelted his residence with stones.
Later, police rescued the BDO from the mob fury. The protesters also heckled some senior civil and police administration officials.
“The EVMs should have been dispatched to the strong room. Even 18 hours after the polling ended, the EVM-loaded vehicle had not reached its destination. It is now crystal clear that the machines were being tampered,” said BJP Lok Sabha candidate for Kendrapara Bishnu Chandra Das.
Kendrapara collector Nitin Bhanudas Jawale said: “The EVMs spotted in front of the quarters were reserve machines. These had been dispatched to various booths of the Mahakalpada Assembly constituency, so that they could be put to use if any EVM turned dysfunctional. There was no mala-fide intention in storing of the EVMs. However, it should have been sent to the strong room earlier. The concerned BDO has been asked to explain the delayed dispatch of the unused EVMs to the strong room.”
Mohapatra sought a high-level probe into the entire election management in the constituency. “The poll management has been lopsided, which leads one to believe that the administration is doing it deliberately to ensure the defeat of Opposition candidates,” he said.
“Right from the deployment of polling officials to the dispatch of the EVMs, the district election office had engaged in irregularities. Yesterday, EVMs were being dispatched from Tikhiri polling booths to a strong room in a private vehicle without security cover. People spotted the vehicle carrying the EVMs and detained it. There was every possibility of the tampering with the machines,” he alleged.