Maharashtra Polls: Baramati candidates demand re-election
Former deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who has won his fifth consecutive assembly election in Baramati constituency, may land in trouble after the BJP and some independent candidates have raised an objection about 54 EVMs, and are demanding a re-election. Many independent candidates claim that even when they cast their own votes, the total votes in those booths were shown to be zero. But the Returning Officer has refuted these allegations.
Pawar has won the election with a margin of 89,791, defeating Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) candidate Balashaheb Gawade. It is being alleged by other candidates that Pawar, who had allegedly threatened to cut the water supply of Masalwadi villagers if they did not vote for his cousin Supriya Sule in the Lok Sabha polls, has a role in getting the electronic voting machines (EVM) tampered with.
The candidates are demanding re-election as during the 14th round of counting, a polling agent who was checking sealed EVMs noticed a machine’s serial number was different. Around 12 noon, the issue was brought to the notice of BJP’s campaign leader of Baramati constituency, Nitin Bhame who raised objection.
Gawade claims, “We candidates must have EVMs’ numbers and have the right to know about the change in machines during elections. This is a mischievous act by Pawar’s family, just as during Lok Sabha election Ajit Pawar had threatened Masalwadi villagers. We demand a re-election.”
Speaking to mid-day, independent candidate Santosh Kamble said, “I was expecting a good lead in Katfal and Gautam Nagar where, me, my wife and around 200 relatives stay. I have got only one vote. My wife had voted for me so how come her vote was not counted? I demand a re-election.”
Another independent candidate, Santosh Jadhav said, “During last municipal corporation elections I received some 1,000 votes and this time the number is just two digits.” Kaluram Chaudhari, a Bahujan Samaj Party worker said, “During the Lok Sabha polls we received more than 24,000 votes from Baramati constituency. Our candidate Anil Potare received just 3,350 votes now which is unexpected. We want re-election with a CBI enquiry.”
Bhame said, “Prior to the day of voting all candidates are given the serial numbers of EVMs. A polling agent noticed the change in numbers in one machine and started looking for it. When one of our party members asked why there was a delay in counting, the issue came to light. We then started inspecting the machines and noticed 54 EVMs had different numbers. These numbers were not shared with us, they did not tally with the reserved machines’ numbers also.”
He added, “This we noticed around 12 noon during the 14th round of counting. We demanded the counting be stopped till we got a satisfactory reply. For an hour the counting stopped. Later the returning officer said they had changed the machines on four different occasions. There is also a vast change in signatures (polling agents are supposed to sign when EVMs are brought to the booths or taken away etc). Despite this the counting continued. We also saw a seal (EVMs are sealed after voting) which had Dolrevadi village in Baramati mentioned, fallen in the government parking area at the counting centre.”
Santosh Jadhav, returning officer for Baramati Constituency said, “Around 352 EVMs were allotted to Baramati Constituency. Initially there was some technical issue in 27 machines that we replaced with our reserve machines. Later on October 5 and 8, during trials, another 11 machines were found with errors and these we changed. Two were changed on the day of voting (October 15). We had received complaints from polling agents about errors in machines and we replaced those with emergency machines. On four such occasions the machines were changed and all are documented. We are not bound to inform minute changes about EVMs to candidates.”
When contacted, Ankush Kakade spokesperson of NCP said, “The issue has been fabricated to create a controversy about the Pawar family and NCP. Pawar has won the election with an 80,000-lead and one must learn to digest failure. This issue is technical and not man-made or created by us.”
—Inputs from Ajay Rupanavar