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Rigging? Cameras will be watching

May 6: The Election Commission has told still and video photographers to record the entire polling process in the last two Lok Sabha election phases as “regular” shots taken in the third leg were not enough to check the veracity of Opposition complaints of malpractice.

The photographers have been “properly briefed” ahead of tomorrow’s polling and told to capture images of electoral malpractice, if any. Government employees, not professionals, are assigned the duty of taking pictures.

“Still (digital) and video cameras were not used properly in the third phase. Many of those handling the cameras had not been properly briefed or trained. We have done that after complaints of malpractice in the third phase. Hopefully, we will see the difference,” a commission official said in Delhi.

A senior government official said eight to 10 “regular snaps” of each booth were submitted. “They were not enough to establish the Opposition’s allegations of rigging and other malpractice,” he said.

The official said the snaps taken during the third phase were those of mock polls, the first voter, queues outside booths, EVMs and their sealing.

According to the commission’s plan for the fourth leg, around 1,000 of the 11,321 booths will have video cameras, while 2,200 will have digital cameras. There will be web-casting facilities in 177 booths.

The booths that will not be fitted with any recording equipment will have micro-observers or central forces, or both, depending on their sensitivity.

Opposition parties in Birbhum, which voted in the third phase, had alleged that the reports on polling were prepared by “biased” micro-observers in the absence of video and still cameras. On April 30, the Opposition had complained of malpractice in at least 826 booths, with the Birbhum district accounting for 523.

“The districts that voted in the third phase could not produce a single picture that showed malpractice. Most of the booths from where complaints of rigging were reported had still cameras. But officials have to take pictures,” said the poll panel official.

Ramchandra Dome, the CPM’s Bolpur candidate, said: “Most of the booths here did not have cameras and even in those that had, the officials failed to take proper pictures. How can anyone prove that rigging had taken place?”

Asked about the allegation of rigging, Bolpur Trinamul MLA Chandranath Sinha had said after the third phase: “Everyone knows that the polls have been free and fair. There was no rigging.”