A polling agent of the BJP was arrested by Palwal Police Sunday, hours after a video of him allegedly trying to influence voters at a polling booth in Faridabad district surfaced on social media. Following a probe, the Election Commission Monday ordered fresh polls at the polling station on May 19 and suspended the station’s presiding officer.
Police said the incident took place at a polling booth in Asaoti village, under the Faridabad Lok Sabha constituency, which voted May 12. And according to the complaint filed by Amit Atri, the booth’s presiding officer, BJP polling agent Giriraj Singh, a resident of Asaoti, “with the excuse of helping voters”, pressed the button meant to cast votes on three occasions.
The Palwal police said Singh was arrested and released on bail Monday. “We found out about the matter on Sunday afternoon after someone sent the video to us. An FIR was registered and the accused was arrested in the afternoon itself. He has been produced in court and released on bail today,” said Sub Inspector (SI) Kuldeep Singh, Station House Officer (SHO) of the Sadar Palwal police station. The FIR against Singh includes a charge under Section 171C (undue influence at elections) of the IPC.
The video of the incident shows Singh walking into the poll booth on three occasions in less than 90 seconds as three voters enter to cast their votes one by one. As he gets up to walk to the booth a third time, he is told that he is being called outside. He, however, walks into the booth a third time, before he finally walks out of the purview of the camera.
Atri stated in his complaint: “I stopped him each time but Giriraj Singh did not listen. While Giriraj Singh was trying to put a vote, some person recorded a video film and made it viral. During this time, a crowd of other voters came and Giriraj Singh managed to escape because of the crowd.”
According to an EC statement, the poll panel has taken action against Atri too. “The presiding officer Shri Amit Atri has been placed under suspension for the dereliction of duty and criminal action is also being initiated against the Presiding officer. The Micro observer Ms Sonal Gulati has not reported the incident correctly for which the commission has barred her from any election related work for three years,” it stated. “Taking a serious note of failure to take immediate action on the incident, the Returning Officer 10 Faridabad PC has been transferred out…”
Giriraj Singh (38), who owns a shop in Asaoti and is also a member of the village panchayat, denied the allegations saying that he was only “helping” voters understand the EVMs.
“There were three polling agents who were there, one from AAP, one from INLD, and I was there from BJP. I did not press any buttons. I had only gone into the booth to help women because they could not understand the machines. I showed them that you have to press one of these buttons and came out, but someone recorded a video of the incident and made it viral, projecting it as if I had voted on their behalf,” he said.
Singh described himself as a “nationalist type of person”, stating that he had participated in the Anna Hazare movement as well. He claimed he is “not officially” a worker with the BJP but had been recruited as the party’s polling agent for the booth “since I understand the process”. He also said that he left the polling station after the video surfaced since his “relatives became concerned”.
Haryana BJP spokesperson, Raman Malik, said the party would take action “if” Singh was found to be guilty.
Meanwhile, Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa said that the panel was probing another video on similar lines.