Yesterday, while covering the elections, I came to Ghatkopar (West) in Sainath Nagar to meet a few political leaders. While on my way back around 5.30 pm, I flagged an auto (MH-03-AK-8382) and asked the driver to drop me to Ghatkopar (East).
The auto rickshaw (MH-03-AK-8382) allegedly being used by BJP’s candidate Kirit Somaiya to ferry voters to a polling booth in Ghatkopar. Pic/Suresh KK
The auto driver refused. When I asked him why, he told me he was plying voters to a poll booth for a candidate. Shocked, I asked him who this candidate was and he said Kirit Somaiya.
Somaiya is the BJP’s candidate from the Mumbai North East constituency, currently held by NCP’s Sanjay Dina Patil. All this happened outside KVK Ghatkopar Sarvajanik School and Sainath School, which was the polling centre for Lok Sabha elections.
I immediately called a police officer one Bansode stationed outside the polling booth. He refused to help and directed me to another police officer named Nanaware, who also said she couldn’t help me.
Later, a home guard personnel was sent with me in the auto rickshaw to take it to the police station. We had not even covered 50 metres when the vehicle stopped; the home guard jumped out of the auto and ran away.
Immediately, some people who seemed to know the driver gathered around the auto rickshaw and kept asking me not to take the matter ahead. I refused to relent. The men persisted that I take another auto rickshaw, but I did not budge.
The men backed off and even the auto driver disappeared. Meanwhile, I tried calling the police control room from my mobile but couldn’t reach them. At the same time, the auto driver reappeared with another person, who again asked me to ‘solve the matter’ and not go to the police station.
When I refused again, he cursed at me and left. The rickshaw driver also disappeared. Meanwhile, I called Commissioner of Police Rakesh Maria, but his phone was busy. Hence, I sent him a message about the incident.
He called back, heard me out, and asked the main control to call me. I got a call from the control room and a police officer was sent around 7 pm.
From there, I was taken to Ghatkopar police station, where I narrated the incident and the senior police inspector asked me to file a complaint in writing. Around 9.35 pm, I submitted my complaint to the police station.
Election officials say
I attempted to contact Returning Officer Daulat Desai, of the Mumbai North East constituency, but he didn’t answer my calls. I then contacted Madhukar Ardat, returning officer of Mumbai North Central constituency. He told me, “Under The Representation of the People Act, 1950, a candidate is not allowed ferry voters to the polling booth.”
The other side
Vivekanand Gupta, media in-charge for Kirit Somaiya and the spokesperson for BJP Mumbai, said, “We have not engaged any auto rickshaws to ferry voters. This is a conspiracy to defame Somaiya. If there is any such rickshaw, it is being employed by other parties.”