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‘Helping’ hands at repoll

May 13: Two youths were seen “helping” two women cast their votes at a Burdwan booth where repolling was held today, following which the presiding officer was removed.

The BJP, based on whose complaints of malpractice the Election Commission had ordered the repolling at the booth in Mangalkot, which falls under the Bolpur Lok Sabha seat, alleged today that the two youths were “known Trinamul workers”. Trinamul has denied the charge.

Bolpur had voted in the third phase on April 30.

The BJP has demanded a second round of repolling at booth 53 in Lakhuria village. The Election Commission, however, said it had not received any “major” complaint of malpractice at any of the 11 booths where repolling was held today.

The Katwa SDO said one instance of malpractice had been established at the booth — a man had helped his wife cast her vote.

“This is illegal and I removed the presiding officer,” SDO Mridul Halder said. Told that another man had been seen on TV and by this correspondent with an elderly woman inside the voting enclosure, he said: “Her companion produced a disability certificate on her behalf and so, was allowed to accompany her when she voted.”

The general secretary of the BJP’s Burdwan East unit, Anil Dutta, dubbed today’s re-polling a farce.

“The administration had assured us that polling would be held with adequate security personnel. But in reality, Trinamul workers did whatever they wanted and guided women voters to cast their votes for the party,” he said.

Dutta alleged that “Trinamul workers” entered the booth “without any resistance” from the police. A district official said the booth had two state armed policemen and was under video camera surveillance. Both the incidents had been recorded, the official said.

The BJP’s Dutta said that after coming to know about the two instances of malpractice from the media, “we lodged a complaint with a deputy magistrate at the booth. I also spoke to the sub-divisional officer of Katwa. But no one listened to us. After TV channels started showing the pictures, the administration reacted.”

SDO Haldar said: “I personally visited the booth and removed the presiding officer around 2.30pm.”

Asked about one of the instances of alleged malpractice, Haldar said: “I conducted an inquiry and found out they are husband and wife. They wanted to vote together. However, this is illegal and that is why the presiding officer was removed. We have sought an explanation from him.”

A Trinamul secretary in Burdwan, Mondal Azizul, said the allegation against Trinamul was baseless. “No party worker helped any voter at the booth today,” he said