The Election Commission on Tuesday found four electronic voting machines (EVMs) and four VVPATs at the residence of a Trinamool Congress leader in West Bengal's Uluberia amid the phase 3 polling in the state.
The election commission 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 a result, the ECI has suspended Sarkar and has removed the voting machines from the election process. An FIR has also been registered in connection with the case. Apart from Sarkar, several cops have also been suspended, according to the news agency ANI.
Sector Officer has been suspended. It was a reserved EVM that has been removed from the election process. Severe action will be taken against all involved: Election Commission of India (ECI)— ANI (@ANI) April 6, 2021
EVMs and VVPATs were found at the residence of a TMC leader in Uluberia, West Bengal pic.twitter.com/IBFwmDSXeY
The Sector Police attached to Sector Officer has also been directed to be suspended. The said EVM and VVPAT have been taken out of the stock and shall not be used in the polls: Election Commission of India— ANI (@ANI) April 6, 2021
The Election Commission has claimed that Sarkar took the EVMs and VVPATs to TMC leader Gautam Ghosh's residence on April 5, and both Sarkar and Ghosh are relatives. As per the rules, EVMs can only be stored in places designated by the Election Commission.
In a media statement, the Election Commission said, "Tapan Sarkar, sector officer of Sector 17 in AC 177 Uluberia Uttar at Howrah District went with Reserve EVM and slept at a relative's house. This is a gross violation of the EC's instructions for which the Sector Officer has been suspended and charges will be framed for major punishment."
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.
"It's more serious because today is voting. EC has taken action not to use those machines and suspend the officer. But this may be a bigger thing than it seems. So, we demand that there should be a full inquiry of these VVPATs & EVMs found in his house," Javadekar said.
The polling of phase 3 West Bengal assembly election for 31 seats is underway. The first two phases of the Bengal assembly elections were held on March 27 and April 1, respectively. West Bengal will see five more phases of polling which will conclude on April 29. The final votes will be counted on May 2.