Antagarh bypoll, 2014: Congress seeks ‘impartial’ probe by senior ECI official

The ECI has asked Chhattisgarh Chief Secretary Vivek Dhandh to file a report on the matter in seven days.

Written by Dipankar Ghose | Raipur | Updated: January 2, 2016 1:41 am
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Days after The Indian Express published a report on purported conversations between key political players of Chhattisgarh that suggest a financial deal could have led to the withdrawal of a candidate from the Antagarh bypoll in 2014, the Congress has written to the Election Commission of India, asking for a senior officer of the ECI to take charge of the probe in the case.

The ECI has asked Chhattisgarh Chief Secretary Vivek Dhandh to file a report on the matter in seven days. The Congress, however, argued that with the chief secretary reporting directly to the Chief Minister and state government, “there could be question marks” on the report.

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On Friday, The Indian Express had also reported that Rupdhar Pudo, the only candidate who fought the election against the BJP’s Bhojraj Nag, has alleged in a police complaint, as well as in a petition to the Bilaspur High Court, that the CM’s personal secretary O P Gupta offered him “anything” to withdraw from the poll during nomination process.

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In a letter to the Chief Election Commissioner, Congress leader Girish Dewangan said that after publication of the report, the ECI sought a report from the chief secretary and directed Chhattisgarh Chief Electoral Officer Nidhi Chhibber to oversee the inquiry. “The Congress welcomes this step. However, since the chief secretary is an administrative officer, who reports to the CM and state government, his involvement could affect the impartiality of the probe, and raise questions on it.

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Therefore, for an impartial and transparent inquiry, the probe must be handed over to a senior officer of the ECI,” the letter says. It also calls for the election to be declared null and void.

State Congress chief Bhupesh Baghel reiterated the demand, adding that “an SIT should also be formed under supervision of the Supreme Court.”