AFTER THE ink controversy during the 2016 Rajya Sabha polls in Haryana, AICC observer Charan Das Mahant and Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee (HPCC) president Ashok Tanwar were not allowed to enter the Assembly complex during the presidential poll on Monday. Soon after security personnel stopped them at the Assembly gate, Congress lodged a complaint with the Election Commission around 12:30 pm. Das is a former Union minister while Tanwar is a former Lok Sabha MP from Sirsa. “I can’t understand whether it’s dadagiri or alertness. We have not come to influence the voting, but to see how many MLAs were coming to cast their votes,” said Das.
In the letter to the EC, Tanwar, Das and Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Kiran Choudhry said, “Its unfortunate and this is the first time that the PCC president and the AICC observer were not allowed to enter the Assembly premises. In the past, they used to allow us to sit in the conference room to meet the MLAs. While in the Assembly gallery, unauthorised people are there to intimidate the MLAs.”
The Congress leaders, in the letter, said during the Rajya Sabha election last year, there was a pen controversy in the Haryana Assembly and state and Election Commission officials were well aware of it. “Today in all other states concerned, State Election Commission allowed PCC president and AICC observers to be present on the Assembly premises. If we look at the history, then the role of the state government has been dictatorial and wrong attitude towards the Congress party…,” they added.
The Congress leaders demanded that the people responsible should be punished and the Election Commission should ensure that “partisan practice should be reprehended”. Assistant Returning Officer (ARO) Pankaj Agarwal said two polling agents of opposition candidate Meira Kumar – Karan Singh Dalal and Geeta Bhukkal – were present at the place of polling. “There was no mention of the AICC observer and the PCC president on the list provided by the EC of the persons allowed to enter the voting place,” he said.
Keeping in view the 2016 ink controversy, a special pen was supplied by the Election Commission this time for marking the vote on the ballot paper. A poster carrying detailed instructions regarding the polling, including asking the MLAs to mark their votes only with the designated pen for the purpose, was put up near the entry gate of the Assembly.
Though no mobile phone was allowed inside the place of polling, still a few videos have emerged showing MLAs casting their votes. “The matter has come to our notice. We will see what action can be taken in the matter,” said Agarwal, adding that all the 90 MLAs exercised their right to vote at the booth set up in the Assembly complex.
Replying to a question regarding the possibility of cross-voting, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said he did not think that there would be any cross-voting in the state. “The MLAs, supporting the NDA, have voted for Kovind.” Former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda said, “This time, the MLAs have voted after listening to their inner voice.”
During the Rajya Sabha polls in June 2016, the votes of 12 Congress MLAs were declared invalid for marking their preferences with a pen having a different ink colour than the one supplied officially. In September 2016, the EC had indicted Haryana Assembly Secretary R K Nandal, who was the returning officer for the June 2016 Rajya Sabha election. Owing to the ink controversy last year, this time an IAS officer (Agarwal) presided over the presidential election in the state.