Election Commission (EC) has restricted Abhimanyu Kale, the Collector of Gondia during the recently held Lok Sabha bypoll in Bhandara-Gondia constituency, from conducting any electoral duties for five years, sources said.
Kale was transferred after glitches developed in electronic voting machines (EVMs), leading to repoll at 49 centres. Sources in EC told The Indian Express, “Kale has been barred from electoral responsibilities for five years.”
One of the reasons for action against Kale was reported to be his issuing a directive to State Bank of India to keep its branches in the constituency open even on holidays till June 15, to facilitate disbursal of compensation to farmers for damages caused by pest attack on cotton and paddy. This was just prior to the actual polling on Monday.
After The Indian Express reported the matter on Monday, restrictions were put on Kale regarding his electoral responsibilities. Chief Election Commissioner O P Rawat said, “The assumption that the move is due to farm relief issue is not correct. It is one of the reasons for the action. There were problems with EVM and proper training had to be conducted prior to elections. That does not appear to have happened.”
It could not be known if similar action was taken or would be taken against Additional Collector of Bhandara Dilip Talmale, who had issued similar directive to SBI. Talmale had told The Indian Express that he had done so as per the state government directives.
Chief Electoral Officer of Maharashtra Ashwini Kumar was in Nagpur on Saturday to inquire into the election glitches in Bhandara-Gondia. “I do not think any officer can be penalised for anything without proper inquiry. Ashwini Kumar will submit his report and only then any action can be initiated,” a senior official said.