LUCKNOW: A day before counting of votes for the crucial Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, Samajwadi Party (SP) president and former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has provided fresh fodder to the political rivalry with allegations of electronic voting machines (EVMs) fraud in the state.
He claimed that EVMs had been transported in Varanasi without information to local candidates. It was stoutly refuted by the Election Commission (EC) officials. They said charges were baseless as the EVMs in question were being transported for the training purposes. The EVMs used for the polling were kept in the designated strong rooms under heavy security blanket.
Meanwhile, BJP retaliated by saying the allegations levelled by Akhilesh Yadav, sound more like an admission of defeat. ‘He is rattled and knows what lies in store for him and his party”, said a senior BJP leader.
Addressing a press conference here on Tuesday evening, Akhilesh Yadav alleged: “Samajwadi Party is winning Ayodhya, that is why BJP is scared. Election Commission officials are tampering with EVMs.”
Questioning the timing of the transportation of the EVMs in Varanasi, which is also a parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Samajwadi Party leader said, “Exit polls are an attempt to create a perception that BJP is winning.”
“This is the last fight for democracy. EVMs are being transported without any prior information to the candidates. We need to be alert if more EVMs are being transported in this manner. This is theft. We need to save our votes. We may go to court against it but before that, I want to appeal to people to save democracy,” he alleged.
The SP supremo alleged that “Three boxes were recovered from a garbage disposal truck in Bareilly. One had plain ballot papers, while the other had ballot papers with seals. In Sonbhadra as well, EVMs were being taken when people apprehended them. You can confirm with the district magistrate that calls are being made from Lucknow. Therefore, in places where the BJP is losing, the counting process should be slow and extended till evening”.
He also made similar allegations in a tweet and said, “The reports of EVM being caught (transported) in Varanasi is a message to be alert in every constituency. To deal with any attempt of cheating during counting of votes, the candidates of Samajwadi Party and its allies should stay ready with their cameras. The youth should become soldiers while counting for the sake of democracy and their future.”
Even as he addressed a press conference and tweeted, the Samajwadi Party candidate in Meerut’s Hastinapur was also seen keeping a vigilant eye with binoculars on the strong room where the EVMs were stored after the elections.
In support of the SP’s allegation, Samajwadi Party’s alliance partner Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) chief OP Rajbhar added: “This could well be the last democratic elections. After this, we may have a freedom struggle at hand… We will also approach the courts if needed.”
He also demanded the removal of the District Magistarate and Commissioner of Varanasi.
“Until the DM and commissioner of Varanasi are not removed, we will not allow the counting of votes,” the SBSP chief threatened. He went on to add that the parties have already lodged a complaint with the Commission.
“Three vehicles came out with EVMs and this was done without informing anyone. According to the guidelines of the Election Commission, EVMs cannot be taken anywhere without informing the candidate and without force,” Rajbhar alleged.
Later in the evening, a statement issued by the UP Chief Electoral Officer said: “These machines have always been used for dual training and hands-on training. The EVMs used in polling are sealed and guarded and are being observed through 24×7 monitoring.”
Speaking to the reporters last evening, Varanasi’s Commissioner Deepak Agarwal appeared to accept that there was a lapse in protocol in the movement of EVMs. However, he insisted that the vote machines in question were only for training purposes.
While speaking to the media, Agarwal said, “If you talk about the protocol for the movement of EVMs, there was a lapse in the protocol, I accept that. But I can guarantee you, it is impossible to take away machines used in voting,” Agarwal said.
“Political party workers can even sit outside the centres and keep an eye,” the Commissioner said.
Following the admission of the lapse in moving the EVMs for training purposes, the Samajwadi Party shared his video on Twitter and said it was an admission that protocol was not followed.
Meanwhile, the ruling BJP slammed the Samajwadi Party and said that the Samajwadi Party was trying to pin the blame on the Election Commission out of fear of losing the elections and that instead, they should have waited for the counting day to make such allegations. The counting of votes for the 403 member house is scheduled to take place on March 10.