Miffed with handling of EVMs, Assam Congress wants CCTV links to strong rooms
A day after conclusion of polling for the third and final phase, Assam Congress on Wednesday asked the Election Commission (EC) to provide them links to close circuit television (CCTV) cameras of the strong rooms where electronic voting machines (EVMs) are kept before counting of votes.
The opposition Congress is unhappy with the management of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) during the election process, which witnessed several ‘unwanted incidents’ and is concerned about the machines before counting of votes on May 2.
“Considering several unwanted incidents already been reported in respect of the EVMs and the discrepancy aroused in connection with them in several places of the state during election phases, it has now become essential to ensure protection of the EVMs from rigging by any means after conclusion of all the three phases of election in the state to protect the interest of democracy,” state Congress president Ripun Bora in a letter to chief electoral officer, Assam, Nitin Khade.
Elections to the 126 assembly seats in Assam were conducted in three phases on March 27 (47 seats), April 1 (39 seats) and April 6 (40 seats).
“As the strong rooms are already under CCTV surveillance with access to the concerned election officers to ensure its protection, it would also afford satisfaction to the contesting candidates if the access/link of those CCTV surveillances is provided to them and the same will definitely ensure holding of the present assembly election in the state in a fair and impartial manner,” the letter added.
On March 28, a day after conclusion of the first phase of polls, Congress had written to the EC seeking permission to install CCTV cameras in the space allotted to candidates of the party in front of the strong rooms so that they could keep tabs on the EVMs.
“Our party had made the request on March 28 and we are yet to get any response from the EC on it. We request the authorities to look into this matter seriously,” Bora said at a press conference in Guwahati on Wednesday.
Congress has already placed four party cadres from each constituency in front of the strong rooms across the state to keep an eye on any suspicious activity before counting of votes.
On April 1, after conclusion of the second phase of polling, several electronic voting machines (EVMs) from a polling station in Ratabari seat were found in the vehicle belonging to the wife of a sitting Bharatiya Janata Party MLA from neighbouring Patharkandi. Both seats are from the Barak Valley region of the state.
Following uproar over this major lapse, the Election Commission suspended four officials and ordered re-poll in the polling station to which the EVMs belonged.
In a statement, the EC mentioned that the polling officials used the MLA’s wife’s car, without knowing whom it belonged to, as the official vehicle in which they were carrying the EVMs broke down while taking the machines back after polling ended. A magisterial inquiry has been ordered into the incident.
Reacting to Congress’ request to the EC, ruling BJP office bearers in Assam said that while they will be monitoring the strong rooms, the party has full faith in the poll body and its management of the EVMs.
“We are monitoring the strong rooms as per routine. But unlike the Congress, we have full faith in the EC and its conduct of the polls. Congress’s worry stems from the fact that they are losing. They always blame EVMs when they lose, but are happy with the machines when they win,” BJP Assam spokesperson Rupam Goswami said.
(With inputs by Biswa Kalyan Purkayastha in Silchar)