Five months after Dalit women from Faridabad’s Asaoti village alleged their votes in the Lok Sabha polls, which they were to cast at booth number 88, had been “stolen” by the BJP agent deployed there, members of the community remain apprehensive ahead of Assembly polls in Haryana on October 21.
According to data available on the Haryana Chief Electoral Officer’s website, four booths will be located within the village, which has 4,869 voters, this election. The sitting MLA in the constituency is from the BSP, whose supporters had claimed the BJP agent pressed the wrong button when it was their time to vote.
“Last time we were lucky that someone caught the agent taking our vote on video and we had the chance to vote again, but there is no guarantee it will happen this time,” said Vidya, one of the women who made the allegations in May. Her son, Rajkumar, claimed this is not the first time women have been targeted in such a way, because “party agents know they will not protest”.
Vivechana (23), also from the village, said: “Since an agent has been caught here, I don’t think anyone else will try to take our votes again, at least not this time.”
When contacted, poll officers in charge of Prithla constituency — under which the village falls — expressed confidence that the incident would not be repeated. “Booths like the ones in Asaoti, which have a past history, have been marked as vulnerable. Teams have been constituted and officers will be visiting and inspecting such booths very frequently to ensure everything is proceeding smoothly.
Additional forces have also been deployed there,” said Vivek Kalia, the constituency’s returning officer.
“This time, we have also carried out extensive training of polling personnel and they have been briefed to supervise the behaviour of not only voters, but also agents. Police personnel have also been trained accordingly. We are confident that no such nuisance will occur,” he said.
It was on the evening of May 12 that a video surfaced showing a polling agent getting up from his chair and, on three occasions, trying to influence three women voters. He was later identified as Giriraj Singh, the BJP polling agent deployed at booth number 88 in Asaoti. Another video that surfaced the following day showed a person, later identified as BJP supporter Vijay Rawat, thrusting his arm through the polling compartment and trying to influence a male voter.
An FIR had been registered and both accused were arrested. The poll panel had also taken action against the presiding officer, who was suspended, and the micro observer, who was barred from poll-related work for three years. The returning officer was transferred and fresh polls took place at the booth on May 19.