Alleging that the BJP is trying to “subvert” the mandate in Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections, the Congress on Saturday released three video clips, purportedly showing EVMs in private hands, and demanded that the Election Commission take “strongest possible cognizance” of these “extremely alarming incidents”.
The Madhya Pradesh Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) denied any foul play.
While the first video clip showed a bus full of EVMs, which the Congress claimed had reached the office of Sagar district collector two days after polling, the second clip purportedly showed EVMs in a hotel room in Shujalpur Assembly constituency of MP.
The third video, purportedly showed two people entering a building carrying some boxes. The Congress claimed the building was a strong-room where EVMs, with votes cast, are stored, and the people were entering the building at night through the backdoor.
The MP CEO V L Kantha Rao stated it has taken action against four officers who took EVMs to the hotel. As for voting machines in the bus, the CEO said they were part of the unused reserve stock that were stored separately in a police station, and the tehsildar responsible for delayed submission of machines has been suspended.
The CEO also said the building shown in the third video was not a strongroom but an EVM storeroom meant for unused reserve stock.
Addressing the media, senior Congress leader Manish Tewari demanded that the EC take “valid action” on these incidents and argued the party has “all options open” if it does not get a satisfactory explanation from the poll panel.
A delegation of Congress leaders comprising Tewari, Abhishek Singhvi, P L Punia and Vivek Tankha met the Election Commission and submitted three petitions, including one regarding the busload of EVMs. The memorandum made no mention of the other two allegations. The other two petitions were regarding alleged poll-related irregularities in Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh.
“You have this strange situation where a bus full of EVMs in the Home Minister’s constituency shows up at the storage station 48 hours later. A bus with no number plate and full of EVMs showing up at a station. This is a flagrant subversion of the democratic process,” Tewari said.
He said, “EVMs are being found in hotel rooms. What are EVMs doing in hotel rooms? After an election is over, an EVM is supposed to be going to the strongroom, but… it goes into the hotel room. On one hand, the EC says that officers responsible have been suspended, the state Election Commission says the EVMs have not been tampered with. How has the state Election Commission come to the conclusion that those EVMs have not been tampered with?”
In a media release, MP CEO Rao stated that within an hour of the complaint, the District Election Officer along with area SHO went to the hotel to find that a sector officer, a member of the medical staff, one reserve micro-observer and a security officer had taken EVMs to the hotel against instructions. The four officers, it said, were replaced immediately.
The EVMs and VVPAT machines, it said, were examined and found with their seals intact. The CEO’s office informed that those machines were part of the reserve stock and were not used for polling in the state.
The EC has ordered disciplinary action against the four officers.
The Congress’s MP unit has also complained that CCTV cameras installed in a strongroom in the old jail premises in Bhopal was switched off for an hour on Friday. The state CEO’s office stated this was due to power failure.
Bhopal District Collector Sudama Khade maintained that no irregularity was committed when power supply to the strongroom got disconnected for nearly 90 minutes on Friday.
Meanwhile, the Congress on Saturday asked party workers to keep a watch on strongrooms where EVM and VVPAT machines have been kept in different districts, alleging that efforts are under way to tamper with machines ahead of December 11, the counting day.
The BJP claimed that by making false complaints, the opposition party was showing its desperation and preparing a ground to explain its certain defeat.