The official voting age may be 18 years, but in Jagmalbigha village, under Khusrupur police station of Patna Saheb Lok Sabha constituency, children between 12-14 years are also reported to have voted on April 17. Moreover, while the village recorded a turnout of almost 70 per cent, not many have the indelible ink mark on their fingers.
“This time, even some children voted. Many people avoided the ink mark so that they could vote again in someone else’s name. There was largescale bogus voting while polling officials remained silent,” said Ram Vinay Kumar Singh, a villager.
Although its candidate Shatrughan Sinha did not campaign in this upper-caste Bhumihar village, residents said the BJP had the upper hand, “in the name of Narendra Modi”. They said only BJP polling agents were present at the booth.
Of the total 1,131 voters listed in the electoral rolls of the village, about 700 are reported to have voted. But villagers pointed out that many on the rolls are working in Patna, Ranchi and other towns and could not return home to vote.
“The polling officials only put the ink mark on those willing to be inked,” said a villager requesting anonymity. He said although his wife was not present in the village, he was surprised to find that someone had voted in her name.
“Normally, polling in our village would seldom cross 400 as many voters do not return to the village to vote. But with only BJP polling agents at the booths and lax arrangements, it was almost a free-for-all in favour of the BJP. Even children of 12-14 years voted, carrying the voter slips of their family members who were not present in the village,” said G K Singh, another villager. His grandfather Kesho Singh added that “some people came from Patna to vote.”
Several other villagers, however, had no complaints about the alleged bogus voting. “So long as it is helping the party of our choice (BJP), there is no reason to complain,” said a villager.
When contacted, Bihar additional chief electoral officer R Lakshmanan said, “Though we have not received complaints about Jagmalbigha booth, either from the candidates or any other quarters, we will order a probe before taking any call on repolling.” Meanwhile, repolling in 25 booths of Munger and Pataliputra was conducted on Monday.
Villagers said as CCTV cameras and webcasting facilities were not available at the booth, it would be difficult to prove the alleged rigging.
Among the other candidates in the fray for the Patna Saheb seat are Gopal Prasad Sinha (JDU), Parbeen Amanullah (AAP) and Kunal Singh (Congress).