Amid the crucial third phase of elections in West Bengal, where 31 Assembly constituencies are going to polls on Tuesday, the Election Commission has suspended a sector officer after EVMs and VVPATs were found at the residence of a local Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader at Uluberia in Howrah district. According to sources in the commission, the sector officer Tapan Sarkar, who was in-charge of Sector 17 in Uluberia seat, had spent the night at a relative's house who happened to be a Trinamool Congress leader. The EVMs and VVPAT machines with Sarkar were part of the reserve stock. The commission has said that these EVMs won't be used for voting on Tuesday.
"This is a gross violation of EC's instructions for which he has been suspended and charges will be framed for major punishment. The said EVM and VVPAT have been taken out of the stock and shall not be used in the polls. Severe action will be taken against all involved," The EC said in a statement.
General Observer Neeraj Pawan has checked the intactness of all seals. These EVMs have now been stored in a separate room in the Observer's custody. The EC has also directed the suspension of the sector police attached to the sector officer. "The alleged sector officer in his statement said he brought the four reserved EVM machines to TMC leader Goutam 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," sources in the commission said.
BJP however 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 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.