The Election Commission has suspended the presiding officer of a polling booth in Odisha’s Kendrapara district after visual evidence showed alleged rigging during voting in the booth on April 17.
District returning officer and collector Nitin Bhanu Das Jawale said: “Presiding officer Ganeswar Das is placed under suspension and departmental action has been initiated against him and four other polling officials engaged in the booth.”
Action was taken against Das, a college teacher, and others after the footage of local news channel showing rampant rigging in the booth in Aul assembly segment under Kendrapara Lok Sabha constituency on April 17 went viral on Facebook and YouTube.
The footage of ‘Focus Odisha’ (posted in hindustantimes.com on April 19) showed unidentified persons accompanying women and helping them press a specific button in the electronic voting machines even as polling officials watched on at the booth at Janabali upper primary school of Kalasapur village, about 100 km east of Bhubaneswar.
The Election Commission later ordered re-polling in the booth, which was held peacefully on Friday with a heavy turnout of 74.25%, more than the votes polled a week back.
Allegations of rigging and other malpractice during polling had triggered post-poll violence in politically volatile Kendrapara on April 18. A BJD worker was killed in a group clash in Aul while in neighbouring Mahakalpada assembly segment an irate mob beat up a block development officer for allegedly keeping some EVMs in his house.
The administration had to clamp prohibitory orders on April 19. A two-member observer team from the Election Commission that went to the spot to conduct an inquiry said all the 10 EVMs at the BDO’s residence were unused ones and meant for demonstration purposes.
Jawale said though there was no malafide intention involved it was not proper on the BDO's part to keep the EVMs at his residence instead of sending them to the strong room. The BDO in the meanwhile has been transferred to a block in another district.
Odisha went for simultaneous polls for 21 Lok Sabha and 147 assembly seats in two phases on April 10 and April 17. Polling was held in the Kendrapada in the second and final phase.