EVMs, VVPATs found from TMC leader's home in West Bengal, sector officer suspended
Amid the ongoing Phase 3 polls of the West Bengal Assembly Election 2021 on Tuesday, electronic voting machines (EVMs) and VVPATs were found at a residence of a Trinamool Congress leader in Uluberia. The Election Commission of India has said that the EVM and VVPAT machines were taken to the TMC leader's residence by Tapan Sarkar, a sector officer in charge of elections, as per a report by news agency ANI. The sector officer has been suspended and the reserved EVM machine has been removed from the election process.
Reacting to the incident, Union minister Prakash Javadekar said that "yet another TMC attempt has been exposed". He said that the issue of EVM machines being recovered from the TMC leader's residence might prove to be "bigger" than it currently seems, and demanded there be a full inquiry of the machines that have been recovered.
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Sarkar, the sector officer of Sector 17 in Howrah's Uluberia Uttar assembly constituency, took reserved EVM machines to a relative's house and slept at the residence, ANI reported. Noting that the incident is a "gross violation" of EC's instructions, the Election Commission has suspended sector officer Tapan Sarkar and subsequent charges will be framed for a 'major punishment', ANI added.
Sarkar, the accused sector officer, informed HT Bangla that he brought the four reserved EVM machines to TMC leader Gautam Ghosh's residence at Uluberia's Tulsiberia area on Monday night since the BDO office was "occupied" by central police personnel. Sarkar said that he intended to keep the EVM and VVPAT machines with him while he caught a few moments of rest since keeping the machines in the car would've proved riskier. However, Chiran Bera, BJP candidate in Uluberia Uttar, has dismissed Sarkar's reasoning and alleged that getting hold of the EVM and VVPAT machines was an attempt planned by the TMC to "loot votes".
Phase 3 of the West Bengal assembly elections are being held in 31 seats across three districts — South 24 Parganas, Howrah, and Hooghly. The first two phases of the state assembly elections were held on March 27 and April 1, respectively. In 2016, TMC had won 6 out of the 7 seats in Howrah, including Uluberia Uttar, which go for polls on Tuesday. West Bengal will see five more phases of polling in the ongoing elections, and the last one will be conducted on April 29. Votes will be counted on May 2.