A mob manhandled senior government officials in Odisha's Kendrapara Lok Sabha constituency on Friday where elections were held on Thursday, alleging attempts to tamper votes as an EVM-loaded vehicle was spotted in front of an officer's residence. Tension mounted when an EVM-loaded vehicle was spotted parked in front of the official residence in the town of a block development officer (BDO) Sushant Kumar Pati. The EVMs had Kendrapara Lok Sabha and Mahakalpada Assembly written over them, sources said.
Smelling foul-play, local people and opposition party workers allegedly beat up Marshghai BDO Pati and pelted stones at his government quarter. Later Pati was rescued by police, sources said. The mob, comprising locals and opposition party workers, turned violent as they suspected that the government officials and police were hand in glove behind storing EVMs of a particular assembly seat in the official residence of the officer instead of being deposited at the strong room last night after voting was over.
"EVMs should have been despatched to the strong room. Even 18 hours after the polling ended, EVM loaded vehicle had not reached its destination. It is clear that the EVMs were kept for tampering purpose", alleged BJP Lok Sabha candidate, Bishnu Chandra Das.
Kendrapara Collector Nitin Bhanudas Jawale said, "The EVMs spotted near the quarters of the official were reserve machines. Those were sent to various booths of Mahakalpada assembly constituency so that it could be put to use when any EVM turned dysfunctional. There was no mala-fide intention in storing the EVMs. However, it should have been sent to strong room earlier. The concerned BDO has been asked for an explanatory reply to the delayed despatch of unused EVMs to the strong room".
Meanwhile, senior BJP leader Bijoy Mohapatra, who is contesting from politically-sensitive Mahakalpada assembly constituency, sought a high-level probe into the entire election management in Mahakalpada assembly constituency. "Right from the deployment of polling officials to the despatch of EVMs, the district election office had committed impropriety. Yesterday EVMs were being despatched from Tikhiri polling booth to strong room in a private vehicle without security cover. People spotted the vehicle carrying the EVMs and detained it. There was every possibility of the tampering of EVMs", he said. "I doubt the sincerity of government agencies for free and fair election in Mahakalpada. I have drawn the attention of state Election Commission", he told reporters on Friday.
Meanwhile, a delegation of BJP leaders led by party's legislature group leader Jaynarayan Mishra submitted a petition at the Office of the Chief Electoral officer (CEO) in Bhubaneswar.
"We have been verifying the allegation and inspecting whether the EVMs were used in yesterday's polling," CEO Mona Sharma said.