“Did you vote on April 10?” is a question that is rarely met with a negative answer in Rehna, a small village in Haryana’s Mewat district that comes under Gurgaon Lok Sabha constituency. Understandably so, one would think, given the 78 per cent voter turnout in district headquarters Nuh, under which Rehna falls. But when asked to show the indelible ink mark on their fingers, the villagers start scurrying for answers.
Barring a handful of people, not many here have the ink marks. This has lent credence to allegations of largescale poll rigging. Rehna, as well as many villages in Nuh, Ferozepur Jhirka and Punhana, are now under the Election Commission’s scanner for alleged booth capturing and bogus voting.
“We have received complaints… they have been sent for inquiries. The inquiry report is still awaited. Once it is in, a decision could come in two-three days,” said Deputy Election Commissioner Alok Shukla.
Haryana’s Chief Electoral Officer Shrikant Walgad said a scrutiny of the complaints has already been done by the observer and returning officer and a report has been sent to the EC. “The commission has to take a view on the report. Whether a repoll is required or not will be the EC’s call,” he said.
Rehna villagers, meanwhile, list a variety of reasons for the absence of the ink marks. “I voted, but it’s been over a week and the ink mark is not very clear,” said Mohammad Sajid, who runs a tailor shop. He shows his thumb, but is stumped for an answer when told that the mark is only put on any other finger or thumb if the left forefinger is missing.
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Another resident who is trying to show his little finger to claim that the mark faded off, stops the moment he hears this. Others like Lallu, Iman and Rafique claimed that since most of the villagers are engaged in the harvesting process, their ink marks have got erased.
Ibrahim, 70, offered another explanation. “My religion does not allow me to offer namaaz if I have any mark painted on my body. That is why I have removed the ink mark. Many of the villagers would have done the same,” he said.
Mohammad Rashid Hussain, 24, is among the few with a genuine indelible mark on his left forefinger. “Ek hi aadmi 40-50 vote daal aata hai. Isiliye sabki unglion pe nishan nahin hain (One person casts 40-50 votes here. That’s why all these people don’t have marks on their fingers),” said Hussain, labelled as a “Congress sympathiser” by the villagers.
“This is nothing new here. Elections in Mewat have always happened this way. This time, they allowed us to cast around 250 votes for Congress and then took over the booths,” he alleged, explaining that he is referring to “Chautala ke log”.
“Election agents of all the parties arrived at an agreement on how to split the votes. Congress and AAP voters were allowed to vote first. This was done to ensure that the final results didn’t show completely lopsided polling. After that, the INLD people took over the booths,” he claimed, alleging that even the election agents of some parties cast multiple votes.
“We had 1,740 votes. Except the 150 that went to Congress and 5-10 that went to AAP, all others have gone to Zakir,” said Mohammad Yusuf, a teacher, referring to Zakir Hussain, a local strongman contesting on an INLD ticket. That Rehna happens to be Hussain’s native village is another reason why rivals, the AAP in particular, are suspecting foul play.
Rubbishing the charges, Hussain, said, “Those who know they are losing are making all kinds of complaints. The EC observers were there the whole day. Poll agents of all parties were there. Every party has got votes. It will be clear on counting day. These charges are completely baseless.”
A day after polling, AAP candidate Yogendra Yadav’s election agent, Gaurav Tiwari, wrote to Gurgaon’s returning officer, accusing the INLD and BJP of having “resorted to booth capturing by using several strategies”. “In most cases, a “panchayat” of some influential people in the concerned village was held on the night before polling. There are reports that a large amount of money changed hands,” alleged Tiwari.
Mohammad Sajid, the village tailor here, confirmed that a panchayat asked them to vote for “chashma” (INLD symbol) on the morning of polling day.
“This was supplemented by an open appeal on communal grounds. The INLD supporters asked for votes in the name of religion and the Meo community, while the BJP supporters appealed in the name of Hindu religion in the Hindu-dominated villages. It was decided that the “ek mohar” system prevalent in this region would be followed, i.e. it was decided that nearly all the votes from the village would be cast in favour of INLD or BJP,” Tiwari wrote in his complaint.
Sajid and a few others confirmed that they were asked to follow the “ek mohar” system.
Tiwari also alleged that those who indulged in malpractices on voting day “decided to allot a small quota of votes to other parties so as to create an impresson of genuine voting” and that “most of these captured booths have recorded an unusually high voter turnout”, crossing 80-90 per cent by midday in some places. “The hourly record of voting shows serious irregularities and inconsistencies,” he claimed.
The AAP has alleged major irregularities in 19 polling booths in Nuh, 23 in Firozpur Jhirka and 19 in Punhana in Gurgaon constituency.