An exercise in futility!
The EC team's Siwan exercise proved to be futile as different delegations went on parroting the same lines that polling was peaceful, free and fair.
“Sorry, you can't come with us,” said an Election Commission (EC) official to this correspondent as the two-member EC team went ahead to meet villagers at Titra Bazaar on Mairwa Road on Monday afternoon. The team was here to probe charges of irregularities during the Lok Sabha elections held on April 26.
“You have to consider the security of the villagers as well,” reasoned a policeman, a member of the huge police party accompanying the EC team. This summed up the entire situation. The EC team as well as the district administration of Siwan appeared fully aware of the repercussions, if the news about what the hapless villagers told them spread.
At Zeeradei, Jamsikri, Marka, Hussainganj and Fazilpur villages, the convoy stopped and EC officials – Sangar Ram and Ashish Chakravarty – met people living in roadside houses. They also went inside some villages to talk to the people. At most of the places, however, they were reportedly told that 'everything was alright' and that 'the voters had nothing to complain about'.
At Chainpur, some villagers told the EC officials that while they wanted to vote for Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) candidate Mohd Shahabuddin, they were forced to exercise their franchise in favour of 'teer chhap' (JD-U election symbol).
It is difficult to say what impression did the EC team members gather after meeting the villagers as they refused to talk to the media. But their 'surprise visit' to villages, from where they had received complaints of irregularities and booth-capturing, certainly seemed to miss the element of surprise.
Earlier on Monday, they visited the DAV College where EVMs were kept. Accompanied by the Siwan DM, they went inside the strong room and stayed there for about five hours. They reportedly went through the form 17(A) and the entire exercise was videographed.
Nobody knew what exactly the EC officials did there. However, JD-U candidate Omprakash Yadav claimed they went inside to enquire into his complaint that 85 to 90 per cent votes had been polled at more than 100 booths.
On Sunday evening, the EC officials had met the candidates to ascertain their views about April 26 poll. While the JD-U and BSP candidates were present, incarcerated RJD candidate and outgoing MP Mohd Shahabuddin and CPI-ML candidate Amarnath Yadav, who was unwell, were represented by their respective party leaders. Amarnath, however, visited the circuit house on Monday morning and met the EC team.