A nodal officer of the Election Commission who was in charge of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and voter-verified paper audit trail machines (VVPATs) in Ranaghat Lok Sabha constituency, in West Bengal’s Nadia district, has been missing for more than 24 hours, the police said on Friday.
The police and the special poll observer for the state suspect the incident is the result of a “personal problem”.
The official, Arnab Roy, 30, a West Bengal Civil Service (Executive) officer, was deputy magistrate in charge of all EVMs in Ranaghat constituency, which goes to the polls in the fourth phase on April 29.
The Election Commission’s (EC) special observer for West Bengal, Ajay V Nayak, told the media at the state Chief Electoral Officer’s (CEO) office: “I am aware of the incident but as of now it seems the incident has nothing to do with the elections. It is something to do with his personal problem — that’s what I have been told. Since he is not around, another person has been appointed on the post.”
Sources said Roy was seen speaking with someone on the phone for a long time on the backyard of the institute on Thursday.
According to the police, Roy left his official quarters in Krishnagar and went to Bipradas Choudhury Polytechnic College in the town on poll duty on Thursday morning. The police said he has not been found since lunch that afternoon. “His official vehicle is still lying there (at the college). Both his cellphones are switched off,” a police official said.
The last tower location on his cellphone showed Shantipur, a locality around 18 km from the polytechnic college, officials said. “After Shantipur, his location could not be detected, as his phones were switched off. This is making it difficult for us to locate him,” a police officer was quoted in a PTI report.
The Nadia administration has informed the state CEO, the district magistrate, and the superintendent of police about the incident.
Two complaints have been filed in connection with the incident — one by the district magistrate at Kotwali police station and another by Roy’s family. The police said investigation is under way.
The Election Commission has sought a report from the district magistrate.
Roy works with the MGNREGA project in Nadia district and is married Anisha Jash, also a government official with the MGNREGA.
Ranaghat is set for a close electoral battle between the Trinamool Congress and the BJP. The TMC is seen as enjoying an edge, riding on the sympathy wave after the killing of the party’s sitting MLA, Satyajit Biswas, who was shot dead during the Saraswati Puja celebrations earlier this year.
The BJP is seen to be making inroads into the sizeable Matua vote bank in Nadia district.