With just three weeks to go before the counting of votes, Senior Cabinet minister G S Bali on Monday sparked off a major controversy, alleging that the Himachal Pradesh assembly elections held on November 9 were influenced by the abundant distribution of liquor. He also raised doubts about the fairness of the polls because of faulty EVMs.
The transport minister in outgoing Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh’s Cabinet, however, maintained that the Congress would come out triumphs after the counting of votes on December 18. “I haven’t seen such open distribution of liquor during elections. Neither the police had sufficient manpower to check liquor distribution nor the Election Commission (EC). It’s a serious matter that is bothering me post elections,” Bali said at a press conference.
The Congress leader said in the future, the EC should close down liquor vends for 12-15 days during campaigning and the excise department should keep a close watch on trans-border alcohol smuggling. “Whatever wrong has happened should not be allowed to re-occur. The EC, in future, should close down the liquor vends for atleast 12 to 15 days of poll campaign and the excise department should keep a close check on smuggling of liquor from other states,” Bali said.
The minister said the rampant distribution of the liquor was definitely done to influence the elections and bribe the voters, even though he maintained he would be re-elected to the assembly. “I am not worried about my prospects as I will certainly be re-elected to the the House. My concerns are about the fairness of the election process, which is the duty of the EC,” he said.
Bali also raised questions on EVM tampering and claimed when he had gone to inspect some polling stations of his constituency (Nagrota Bhawan), he saw the machines were kept in dark corners without proper lighting. He said by that time 50 per cent of votes were already cast and many voters had difficulty in seeing the party symbols and names of the candidates.
Asked if he had lodged any complaint with the EC, Bali said, “I raised the matter with the presiding officer who gave me funny reasons. He said if the space was lighted up, the VVPAT screen will not be able to confirm the vote for a particular candidate.”
For the first time, VVPAT machines were used for elections in the country. However, Bali refused to buy the argument that the machines were tamper-proof and it helped to enhance the credibility of the voting process.
The minister, though, predicted that the Congress would return to power in the state to form the next government. “Though the fight is very close, Congress has major advantages like GST, demonetisation, Rs 100 price hike for LGP cylinders and declining graph of the NDA government. This time, the Congress government was also favoured by women and government employees. There was no anti-incumbency against the state government,” Bali said.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines