The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Friday attacked the Election Commission for its defeat in Madhya Pradesh’s Ater assembly bypolls, saying it took several decisions in Congress’ favour.
However, the national leadership of the BJP, which on Thursday claimed 5 seats of the 10 assembly constituencies across 8 states where by-elections were held on April 9, has praised the election watchdog for conducting free and fair elections.
Congress won in 3 constituencies.
Congress candidate Hemant Katare defeated BJP’s Arvind Singh Bhadoria by a narrow margin of 857 votes at Ater in Bhind district. Hemant secured 59,228 votes, while Bhadoria got 58,371. The saffron party, however, won the Bandhavgarh seat.
The by-election in Ater was necessitated due to the death of Hemant’s father Satyadev Katare, the then Leader of Opposition in the assembly, in October 2016.
The defeat in Ater despite its all-out efforts and chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan leading the election campaign has not gone down well with party leaders. Bhadoriya went to the extent of dubbing chief electoral officer Bhanwar Lal as a Congress agent.
Lal was deputed to oversee the elections after a controversy over the paper audit of an electronic voting machine that allegedly offered voting slips in favour of the BJP when multiple buttons were pressed on the device.
Reports said that the EVM registered votes only for the saffron party during the media demonstration of a Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail or VVPAT by the then chief electoral officer Saleena Singh on March 31.
“Though the Congress candidate benefited from a sympathy factor, the Election Commission didn’t do justice to us. It took several decisions in Congress’ favour,” state BJP president Nandkumar Singh Chauhan said.
The poll panel launched an inquiry into the complaints but found nothing objectionable. It, however, transferred more than a dozen officers including Bhind’s collector and superintendent of police ahead of polling.
The BJP leaders also grudge shifting of these officers, saying it only helped the Congress party.
“The party feels the Election Commission shifted officers frequently under the Congress’ pressure to satisfy it and also to send out a message that it is functioning as an impartial organisation. This was the major reason behind our defeat as Congress was able to rig the booths due to poor administration in the district caused by the shifting,” state BJP chief spokesperson Deepak Vijayavargiya said.
However, the state Congress spokesperson Pankaj Chaturvedi said since the BJP leaders were against the transfer of officials it corroborated his party’s charge that the saffron party wanted to manipulate the elections with the help of the administration.
The poll panel has denied the BJP’s allegation and said it did its best to conduct a free and fair election in Madhya Pradesh.
“It tried to redress the complaints in the best possible manner and the commission is satisfied with its role,” spokesperson for chief electoral officer’s office Pralay Shrivastava said.
The contest in Ater was considered as a fight between two heavyweights: chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Congress MP Jyotiraditya Scindia. The win in Ater is being seen as a shot in the arm for the Congress ahead of the assembly elections in the state next year.
The BJP has ruled the central state since 2003 and Chouhan won the 2013 assembly polls with almost a clean sweep in the 2014 general election. The BJP had won 27 of 29 Lok Sabha seats. It holds 166 seats in the 230-member state assembly.