|Smriti Irani argues with Preeti Sahay outside a booth in Amethi on Wednesday. (PTI)
Lucknow, May 7: Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s secretary Preeti Sahay was ordered to leave Amethi today after BJP candidate Smriti Irani filed a complaint, one of many as rivals traded charges of poll-rule violations.
Rahul Gandhi was accused by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate Kumar Vishwas of breaking rules by driving around in a large convoy. Vishwas also alleged rigging by Congress and BJP supporters, lodging the maximum of 30 complaints overall.
The boot appeared on the other foot when Rahul came across the drawing of a lotus, the BJP symbol, inside a booth and filed a complaint. Old-timers said this was the first time they had seen the Congress vice-president on election day, keeping an eye on voting and meeting party workers.
The face-off with Sahay occurred around 11.30am when Smriti claimed she saw Priyanka’s secretary moving from one polling centre to another and talking to voters.
Smriti confronted Sahay outside a polling centre in Gauriganj and asked: “In what capacity are you here? Do you have an authorisation certificate?” As Smriti began asking police officers to check whether Sahay had any such document — which allows candidates and their representatives to move around near polling premises — more Congress supporters arrived and objected.
“Why are you not checking the woman’s (Sahay’s) certificate. Why are you helping the Congress? This is not fair,” Smriti was heard telling a posse of policemen. The BJP nominee alleged that Sahay had walked into a polling premise without clearance from the Election Commission.
Smriti lodged a complaint and eventually, district officials asked Sahay to leave the town late in the afternoon.
Earlier, the war of words had begun early in the day, around 10.45am, when Rahul reached a polling centre in a school and spotted the lotus symbol drawn on a blackboard in a class where voting was under way. “What is that? Who has drawn it?” Rahul asked the presiding officer, but got no answer.
Rahul then filed his complaint with the district magistrate. A.K. Singh, the subdivisional magistrate on duty in the area, later said “he had heard about the complaint” but was yet to receive it from the district magistrate. “We will look into the complaint,” Singh added.
BJP mascot Narendra Modi, who had held a rally for Smriti this Sunday, referred to the presence of Rahul and his family aides in Amethi today. “Those who would not visit Amethi even once in five years, today on election day there, they are roaming around with folded hands,” Modi told a rally in Bengal’s Krishnagar.
On Vishwas’s cavalcade complaint against Rahul — the AAP had alleged he was shuttling around in a 24-car convoy — officials said they had found nothing wrong. “The DM and the SP have informed the commission that while Rahul was moving in one vehicle, the others were security and escort vehicles, which he is entitled to,” a poll panel official said in Delhi.
The AAP’s rigging allegations, too, were not found to be true, according to Amethi district magistrate Jagat Raj. “The panel had received several complaints of booth capturing in Amethi which were referred to the poll authorities. They found no evidence in such complaints. Polling was found to be normal by officials who visited the booths,” state chief electoral officer Umesh Sinha said.
A senior poll panel official in Delhi echoed the assessment. “The observer visited the booths and found no evidence of capturing.”
Voting was slow initially with officials putting the turnout at 43 per cent till late afternoon but it increased to 50.66 per cent by 5pm. The figure was 47 per cent in 2009.