11 May 04:
The Left Front had to witness the twisting armour of the controversial election observer, Ms. Swarnamala Rawala today when the police arrested all the five polling officials including the presiding officer of a booth on charges of indulging in false voting yesterday in such a Polling Station where there was no polling agent except from the CPI(M). The officials were arrested from the DCRC centre in Asansol town early this morning. This was first ever such instance that the entire polling officials were arrested for indulging in malpractice in election. The Asansol SDJM rejected their bail petition late this afternoon.
The central observer Ms. Swarnamala Rawala who recently received strong criticism by the LF state committee for her alleged 'over exercise' in some pockets in Raniganj segment in Asansol suddenly got in to the polling station premises of Sailabala Balika Vidyalaya in Churulia village under 262 Jamuria assembly segment yesterday. It was about 3.30 pm when Ms. Rawala found that a lady voter, Ms Bijoya Baidyakar was crying out side the booth number 4 of the polling station stating that some body already had cast her vote and she was refused by the polling officials to exercise her voting right. Though she had produced her Voter ID card [No: WB/38,262/009538], the polling officials refused to accept her as a bonafied voter. The moment she was kicked out of the booth the observer reached the place and took her inside the booth. The polling officials tried to convince Ms. Rawala that her vote was polled and the voter had produced a valid identification.
While cross examining the prescribed 17 (A) vote register, the observer found that her vote was cast after the voter was identified with the help of her ration card. Incidentally Bijoya refused to accept the explanation given by the polling officials stating that when she had the ID card, why she would bring the ration card unnecessarily? Also the observer found discrepancy that the register was bearing her thumb impression while the woman claimed to be a
literate one. Bijoya's fingers too were not bearing polling mark. The observer asked explanation from the presiding officer, Mr. Arpan Chatterjee who failed to reply satisfactorily. The booth by the time could manage 55 percent polling and she suspended further voting. Ms Rawala in her report to the Asansol ADM, Mr. Narayan Swarup Nigam (Memo No: 22/obs-cell, dated 10.05.04), stated, ' from the above it is clear that all norms of fair voting procedure have been violated by the presiding officer and his polling party in connivance with some political party people.' The observer further stated in her report, 'I have no doubt in my mind that this could be a case of total bogus voting.'
The observer expressed acute annoyance over the functioning of the polling personnel in that booth. She got substantial evidence of malpractice during voting in that booth after interrogating the NVF guard, Md. Abu Saleh. She stated in her report that Saleh had confessed that maximum turn out in the booth was the result of false voting and the presiding officer and polling officers were allegedly found hand in glove with the polling party agents. The booth had only CPI(M) polling agents. Ms. Rawala also stressed that, in most of the booths falling under Raniganj and Jamuria segment, she could hardly locate polling party agents from the Trinamul Congress or the Congress party. Following her report, the Asansol ADM, Mr. Nigam today lodged a FIR against all the polling officials who comprised the party with the Asansol (South) police station. The presiding officer, Mr. Arpan Chatterjee, a branch manager with the LICI, Raniganj and his subordinate polling officers, Mr. A. N. Thakur, an UDC with the Regional Coal Mine Provident Fund office, Mr. S. K. Singh, Assistant Personnel Officer with the Chittaranjan Locomotive, Mr. Sitaram Rajwar, assistant teacher with a Purulia school and Mr. Shyamapada Karmakar, a clerk with the Purulia district office were arrested at 4.30 am today from the DCRC centre in Asansol where they were taken after a medical checkup with the Asansol SD hospital.
The accused officials were charged under sections 132 (A), 134, 135(A) of the Representations of People's Act, 1951. Also a section of 171(D) of the Indian Penal Code was charged against them. The respective sections implicate rigging, bogus voting and malpractice in election. The section 135 (A) is unbailable. The Asansol SDJM, Mr. Debashis Dutta rejected their bail this afternoon. For the first time the entire polling officials of a booth were charged under these sections in state. That too under compulsion followed by a report tabled by an election observer. Ms. Swarnamala since the day she arrived has been facing the CPI(M) criticism. The party blamed that, she was provoking the voters not to cast their vote in favour of the CPI(M) in Raniganj area. The party had lodged official complaint
against her with the Chief Election Commission. Ms. Swarnamala however made the party to face the most unpredictable embarrassment
so ever. The district CPI(M) has criticised her move calling it a biased one. The party district secretary, Mr.
Amal Halder said, 'from the very beginning her movement was suspicious. We suspect unfair motive behind her act.' Mr Moloy Ghatak, district Trinamul Congress president and candidate, Asansol Lok Sabha seat said, 'the observer's act was a tip of an iceberg. The CPI(M) led mass bogus voting and for the first time the party was caught red handed.' The Burdwan District Magistrate, Mr. Subrata Gupta said, 're-polling has been ordered for the disputed booth tomorrow.' Re-polling has been ordered for booth number 90 in Monteswar under Katwa segment, where voting was hampered yesterday due to malfunctioning of the EVM.