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AGP, KMSS seek CBI probe

- 73.34% voter turnout during repolling in Assam

Guwahati, April 27: The AGP and the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) today demanded a CBI probe into allegations of rigging that led to the arrest of six persons, including polling officials, yesterday, as repolling was held in 15 polling stations under four constituencies of Assam.

The six persons — a village defence party member, one presiding officer, three polling officials and one Election Commission-deputed videographer — all of whom were on duty at Bornijara LP School polling station under Jalukbari Assembly constituency on April 24, were arrested after an FIR, alleging rigging, was filed at Baihata police station yesterday.

They were produced in court, which remanded them in 14 days’ judicial custody.

A video leaked to a local television channel shows a village defence party member, Bimal Boro, accompanying voters to the partitioned enclosure, which contained the EVM, and dipping his hand inside each time a voter seemingly cast his or her vote. It was, however, not visible what he was doing.

Officials said such persons are not allowed to approach the EVMs.

The six arrested persons 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.

AGP president Prafulla Kumar Mahanta said, “The Election Commission has failed to keep its promise to hold free and fair elections in Assam. This has been proved by the incident of rigging at Bornijara LP School polling station. Now we are apprehensive of rigging even in repolling. The CBI should investigate the matter. The Election Commission should also take proper steps against those who were involved in rigging.”

Mahanta said they lodged a complaint with the Election Commission as soon as they came to know about the incident of rigging.

KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi told reporters that they would stage a demonstration in front of the office of Assam chief electoral officer Vijayendra on Tuesday if the case was not handed over to the CBI.

The KMSS demanded that the Election Commission conduct repolling in Jalukbari Assembly constituency or upload all video records of different polling stations in the constituency on YouTube or the official website of the commission so that everybody could access it.

“In 2011, we expressed the apprehension that EVM tampering was possible. Now it has been proved beyond question. Then we said the EVM could be taken in confidence only if the voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) is introduced,” Akhil said.

Mahanta also criticised the Election Commission for its alleged failure to use the VVPAT in Assam. “The Election Commission failed to introduce the VVPAT in the state despite its promise to do so,” he said and added that the EVMs used in Assam were old ones.

The AGP and the KMSS condemned the arrest of Vidyut Saikia, the videographer at Bornijara LP School polling station, and demanded his immediate release.

Mahanta said instead of arresting Saikia, he should have been rewarded for recording the incident and exposing how the democratic institution of the country is at stake.

“Saikia is an honest person. He should not be arrested. Instead, he deserves praise for his action,” he said.

The polling percentage was 73.34 in 15 polling stations in four parliamentary constituencies, including two in Nawgong, one in Mangaldoi, two in Gauhati and nine in Kokrajhar, where repolling was held today.

Though the voter turnout was quite low in the morning, it went up as the day progressed.

Polling was stopped in Kokrajhar because of violence on April 24. A police constable died and three others were injured at Harabanga when goons attacked the police personnel on duty.

Repolling at Bornijara LP School will be held tomorrow. The Kamrup (metro) district administration has declared tomorrow a dry day because of repolling.