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Bias cry on Birbhum booth reports

Suri, May 4: Opposition parties in Birbhum have questioned the veracity of the documents on the basis of which the Election Commission has sought a report on polling in 11 booths of the district.

The CPM and the BJP alleged that most of the booths lacked video cameras to record alleged malpractices on the polling day and the reports were submitted to the commission by micro-observers who were “biased” towards the ruling party.

The commission had yesterday sought reports on polling in 43 booths in the third phase, 11 of which are in Birbhum district. The Opposition had complained of malpractice in at least 826 booths, with the Birbhum district accounting for as many as 523.

Sources in the district administration today said only 20-25 of the 2,962 booths had video cameras.

The CPM and the BJP today said that without video footage, it would be difficult to prove any malpractice inside the booths. It is not, however, mandatory to have a video camera inside a booth.

“Trinamul resorted to rigging in at least 348 booths,” said Ramchandra Dome, the CPM candidate in Bolpur. “The reports were drawn up by micro-observers. Will they ever mention anything wrong about the ruling party?”

The Birbhum BJP also questioned how a correct report on rigging could be drawn up in the absence of cameras and “impartial” officials.

Most micro-observers and presiding officers are local government employees and college and university teachers.

Denying the allegations, minister and Trinamul MLA from Bolpur, Chandranath Sinha, said: “Everyone knows the polls have been free and fair. There was no rigging.”