Voters queue up at a polling station in Guwahati. (AFP)
Borjhar/Silchar, April 26: Six persons involved in conducting polls in a booth under Gauhati parliamentary seat were arrested today for “influencing” voters as charges of largescale rigging rocked Assam.
Village defence party (VDP) member Bimal Boro, presiding officer Paresh Hajarika, polling officials Rakhal Choudhury, Abhoy Nath Bezbarua and Rupam Malakar and videographer Vidyut Saikia, all of whom were on duty at Bornijara LP School polling station under Jalukbari Assembly constituency on April 24, were arrested following charges of rigging by the BJP and the AGP.
Bornijara is 22km from Jalukbari under Kamrup (metro) district and around 30km from Guwahati.
Sources said 89 per cent polling was registered at Bornijara polling station.
Assam’s chief electoral officer Vijayendra told The Telegraph that a probe into the charges had found an alleged collusion between the presiding officer and Boro to influence voters.
“The video footage showing Boro helping voters inside the booth was shot by an official videographer deployed by the election department. We have recommended repolling in the affected booth,” he said.
Kamrup deputy commissioner J. Balaji said an FIR had been filed at Baihata police station, 30km from Guwahati, against the presiding officer, the VDP member and the videographer, who has been accused of not submitting the visuals on time.
Boro told TV channels he was helping out voters by identifying the symbols for them.
Sources said a VDP member is entrusted with maintaining voters’ queue at a polling station. Entry of any VDP member inside a polling station is strictly prohibited.
All six have been booked under Sections 120(B)-/171F/448/406/409 of the IPC read with Sections 132/135(A)/134 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. Baihata officer-in-charge Satyendra Singh Hazari said the sections carry jail terms from seven to 10 years.
Cabinet minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who represents Jalukbari Assembly segment, tweeted this afternoon: “Re-polling means more vote for the Congress. Very Simple. So I welcome it.” He also tweeted: “I am not conducting elections. Why should I take responsibility?”
The BJP alleged mass rigging by Congress workers in the three-phase Lok Sabha polls that concluded on Thursday.
A BJP leader Adip Phukan made the rigging charge after a local television channel showed Boro “repeatedly pressing” the EVM button.
He alleged that the youth (Boro) shown on the television channel in Jalukbari was a Congress member. “The footage of the television channel proved what the BJP has been repeatedly complaining to the Election Commission as well as the chief election officer, Assam, about rigging by the Congress. We want the governor to intervene and take action against those involved in rigging,” he said.
Alleging rigging in Karimganj in Barak Valley, the BJP also demanded repolling in 93 booths under Karimganj (SC) constituency, which went to polls on April 12. The chief electoral officer, however, said allegations of rigging in Karimganj were not found to be authentic.
The Congress has also demanded repolling in 111 booths under South Karimganj seat. Leaders of both the parties are camping in Delhi.
The returning officer of Karimganj seat, Sanjiv Gohain Baruah, told The Telegraph that according to the guidelines of the Election Commission, a meeting was convened at Karimganj on April 13 to analyse the post-election scenario.
It was attended by all candidates, observers and deputy commissioners. Only seven booths (two in Hailakandi and five in Karimganj) were recommended to the commission for repoll, mostly for EVM malfunctioning, he said.
State BJP president Sarbananda Sonowal today moved the Election Commission and the chief electoral officer, demanding adequate security for strong rooms. The party’s state unit will stage a demonstration in front of Raj Bhavan tomorrow to demand Governor J.B. Patnaik’s intervention to step up security in strong rooms.
BJP members under each Lok Sabha seat will also stage protests against rigging on Monday.
Repolling will be ordered in 15 booths tomorrow — nine in Kokrajhar, two in Nagaon, one in Udalguri and three in Gauhati constituencies.
Like the BJP, the AGP has also moved the commission and the chief electoral officer for repolling in Jalukbari Assembly segment. Manoj Saikia, the party’s publicity secretary, said party president Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and candidate Birendra Prasad Baishya faxed and emailed their demand for repolling today, following charges of rigging. The also expressed fears of EVM tampering, Saikia added.
Assam PCC president Bhubaneswar Kalita said the Election Commission would probe the charges and since people had already been arrested, the law would take its own course.
“Still I must say one thing: whenever a party feels it is losing they start talking about rigging and tampering,” he added.