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Election Commission rejects Baliyan ‘fake voter’ charge

Water resources and riot accused minister Sanjeev Baliyan demands for removal of Muslim women's veils to verify identity

By Piyush Srivastava in Lucknow
  • Published 13.04.19, 7:19 AM
  • Updated 13.04.19, 7:19 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
Women show their voter identity cards as they wait to cast their votes at a polling station during the first phase of general elections, at Khalapaar in Muzaffarnagar on Thursday, April 11, 2019. (PTI)

The Election Commission has rejected Union minister Sanjeev Baliyan’s allegation that Muslim women were involved in fake voting at Booth 225 and other places in the Kotwali area of Muzaffarnagar on Thursday, asserting that its voter verification mechanism is foolproof.

The water resources minister and riot accused, seeking re-election from the Muzaffarnagar seat, had with his supporters disrupted polling at the Islamia Madarsa in village Sujdu, insisting that the presiding officer remove the women’s veils.

“There were women officers at most of the booths in the area and they were crosschecking the identity of every veil-wearing woman before allowing them to vote,” L. Venkateshawar Lu, the chief electoral officer of Uttar Pradesh, told reporters on Friday.

“The complainant’s apprehensions were unfounded. Still, we immediately deployed more women poll officers at each booth.”

A source in the Muzaffarnagar district administration said: “Baliyan knew there was at least one woman official at each polling booth in the district. Policewomen too had been stationed in every booth, as is mandatory wherever there are women voters.”

He added: “But the minister kept insisting that we deploy more policewomen. We agreed to it to avoid further delays and summoned more women security personnel.”

Tabassum Begum and Imran Masood, the Samajwadi Party and Congress nominees from Kairana and Saharanpur, respectively, have described the BJP leader’s demand for removal of the veils as an “insult” to the Muslim women.

“Why were veiled women stopped at the gate of the polling station if there were women officers inside to verify their identities? It’s an insult not only to women but also to our democracy,” Tabassum said.

Baliyan, who had demanded re-polling in certain booths, repeated his allegation on Friday. “I went to a booth and found that the people on duty were not verifying the identities of the voters properly,” he said.

“Someone in a burqa may cast her vote four or five times. How can the officials allow someone to vote without seeing her face? There were 25-26 booths in village Sujdu but not a single woman constable.”

He added: “At many booths, there were long queues of women but no woman poll officer. In that case the male officers should have checked their faces. It shouldn’t happen in this country that you allow them to vote without identifying their faces. If you are not ready to show your face on religious grounds, you don’t need to vote.”

Khalid Rashid Firangimahli, a noted cleric, said Baliyan’s complaint was “baseless”.

“Burqa-clad women have been voting for the past seven decades. Now they also carry their voter identity cards. It is marked on their finger that they have exercised their franchise,” he said.

“Even Hindu women in parts of western Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan go to the booths with their faces covered. Women officers do identity checks on women voters.”

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