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Election

75% votes cast in Madhya Pradesh bypolls

Votes will be counted on February 28 and the results will be declared the same day.

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Repolling Gujarat election

Bhopal, Feb 24 : Heavy polling was recorded in the bypolls for two assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh on Saturday, with 77.25 per cent voting recorded in Mungaoli constituency and 72.82 per cent in Kolaras at the end of polling, the Chief Election Officer (CEO) of Madhya Pradesh said. Average voting for the two seats stood at 75 per cent.

The by and large peaceful polls also saw some sporadic clashes — especially one in Digoda village of Kolaras in Shivpuri district — between the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers, a poll official said.

Police station in-charge of Mungaoli in Ashoknagar district, Kushal Singh Bhadoria, was removed on the instruction of Election Commission (EC), the official said.

There were also some complaints of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) developing snag at some places. Fifteen EVMs in Kolaras and 17 in Mungaoli had to be replaced.

Chief Election Officer Saleena Singh said that there was enthusiasm among the voters, which translated into high polling percentage. The voting started at 8.00 a.m in both Kolaras and Mungaoli, which continued until 5.00 p.m.

She had appealed to voters to remain calm and exercise their right to vote without fear. Public holiday was declared at both places in view of the bypolls.

A total of 22 candidates in Mungaoli and 13 in Kolaras were in the fray.

Some 3,000 poll officials conducted the election process at 575 polling stations, the EC official said.

The assembly seats fell vacant following the death of sitting Congress MLAs Mahendra Singh Kalukheda (Mungaoli) and Ram Singh Yadav (Kolaras).

These bypolls are being seen as a prestige battle for Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who is in his third term as the Chief Minister, and his arch-rival Jyotiraditya Scindia of the Congress.

The two assembly segments are part of Scindia’s Guna Lok Sabha constituency.

Votes will be counted on February 28 and the results will be declared the same day, the EC said.

Election

Congress goes to Election Commission with E-tendering scam in MP

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VIVEK TANKHA

New Delhi, Sep 25 : The Congress on Tuesday alleged an e-tender scam worth Rs 30,000 crore in last four years in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh and approached the Election Commission raising concern that it could impact the assembly elections in the state.

In a letter to the Chief Election Commissioner O.P. Rawat, Congress leader Vivek Tankha alleged the people involved in the e-tender scam are close to state Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and the ruling BJP.

In his letter to Rawat, Tankha said, “It is billed as the e-tender scam and involves large-scale manipulation of the online procurement platform of the Madhya Pradesh government to allegedly favour a select few private companies in connivance with officers.”

“E-tenders of the estimated value of more than Rs 30,000 crore had been manipulated during the last four years in the state,” it said.

“The officers who purportedly manipulated the tendering process are perceived to be very close to the ruling party and especially to the Chief Minister,” it said.

In his letter, the Congress leader said that the matter came to light after a damning report was submitted by the Principal Secretary, Manish Rastogi MD of the MP State Electronics Development Corporation exposing the rot on May 5 this year.

“Even Chief Secretary Basant Pratap Singh was shocked by the findings of the report,” it said, adding that he ordered the economic offences wing to file an FIR against the delinquents inter alia for criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery, fabrication under the Indian Penal Code and for commission of cyber crimes including hacking and manipulation of electronic records under the Information Technology Act, 2000.

The Congress leader also alleged that instead of promptly acting on the directions of the Chief Secretary, the state government “slept over the said directions for one month”.

“No effort to register a case or to take action for recovery of digital equipment, including seizing of servers, computers, hard disks, laptops, pen drives etc. was either initiated or attempted, offering ample time to the delinquents to tamper with/destroy evidence,” it said.

The Congress said a preliminary enquiry was ordered only on June 21 by the EOW of the state police.

The Congress also raised the question as to why the Managing Director who blew the lid off the scam was transferred. “Why has there been no punitive action against the beneficiary companies despite an internal inquiry pointing out the names of bidders who emerged as the lowest bidder by compromising e-procurement infrastructure?” it asked.

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Congress heads for landslide victory in Zila Parishad polls

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Congress

Chandigarh, Sep 22 : The ruling Congress in Punjab on Saturday won the most seats in the Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samiti elections and headed for a landslide victory as counting was underway. The main opposition AAP in the state assembly faced a humiliating defeat.

Out of 113 Zila Parishad seats — out of a total of 354 — for which results have been declared, the Congress won 106, the BJP-Akali combine six and independents won one. The Aam Adami Party had not won a single seat.

Among prominent winners were former Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee President Bibi Jagjir Kaur’s daughter Ranjit Kaur; Housing Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa’s son Ravi Nandan Singh Bajwa; Congress legislator Ramanjit Sikki’s son-in-law Maninderjit Singh Mani; and former Congress legislator Kawaljit Singh Lally’s son Mehtab Singh.

In Patiala, the home constituency of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, the Congress has won 43 Panchayat Samiti seats and the Shiromani Akali Dal four.

The Akalis suffered a humiliating defeat in their home turf Muktsar as the Congress won 10 of the 13 Zila Parishad zones.

All six Zila Parishad seats in Ludhiana were won by the Congress.

The Congress won a majority in Gurdaspur by securing 154 of the total 213 Panchayat Samiti zones. In Zila Parishad, the Congress won 15 of the 25 seats and was leading in the remaining seats.

Out of the total 148 seats of the Panchayat Samiti in Bathinda, the Congress won 31, Akalis four and the AAP and independents three each. The counting for 107 seats is on.

Sporadic skirmishes, mainly between the Congress and the Akalis, were witnessed during the Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samiti polls on September 19.

The voting percentage was 58 per cent.

A total of 354 Zila Parishad and 2,900 Panchayat Samiti members will be elected. There are 22 Zila Parishads and 150 Panchayat Samitis in the state.

Chief Minister Amarinder Singh congratulated his party on their victory saying people had endorsed the positive development and rejected the Akalis’ “malicious campaign”.

Pointing out that this was the fourth consecutive humiliating defeat of the SAD-BJP combine, after back-to-back victories for the Congress in the state assembly, Urban Local Bodies, Gurdaspur parliamentary and Shahkot assembly by-polls, he termed it a vindication of his party’s efforts to bring the state out of the quagmire of devastation into which it had been plunged by the previous SAD-BJP government.

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Election

PIL on EVM: Bombay HC issues notices to EC, Centre, Maharashtra

In recent RTI queries raised by Roy, it had been revealed how the Bengaluru-based BEL had despatched large quantities of electronic voting machines by ‘hand-delivery’ and ‘by post’ to various unidentified recipients.

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Election Commission

Mumbai, Sep 19 (IANS) In a significant development, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday ordered issuing of notices to the Election Commission of India (EC), Maharashtra State Election Commission (M-SEC) and two public sector makers of electronic voting machines (EVM) and others in a public interest litigation filed by an RTI activist.

The directions were given by Justice S.S. Kemkar and Justice S.V. Kotwal when the PIL filed by activist Manoranjan S. Roy came up for admission.

Others being served notices are the Union Home Ministry, IT Department and Maharashtra Government. The two EVM manufacturers are Electronics Corporation of India Ltd. and Bharat Electronics Ltd. The matter is expected to come up for further hearing after two weeks, according to the lawyer for Roy, P. Pawar of Pawar & Co.

The petitioner, among other things, had highlighted the manner in which a large number of EVMs and Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPATs) were being ordered by the EC and various SECs and that there were huge contradictions in the figures of orders and supplies made by the two manufacturers.

In recent RTI queries raised by Roy, it had been revealed how the Bengaluru-based BEL had despatched large quantities of electronic voting machines by ‘hand-delivery’ and ‘by post’ to various unidentified recipients.

BEL said it had despatched 820 balloting units (BUs) of the machines in bulk packaging, and on two occasions in April (2017) it sent 245 (VVPAT) machines ‘By Hand’, to certain recipients and destinations, according to the RTI replies given to Roy.

Roy told IANS that on both the occasions, BEL did not state to whom the consignments of BUs were ‘posted’ or from where the entire lot of the ‘hand-delivered’ VVPATs originated and whether they were received safely by the intended recipients.

Roy said that for the entire lot of 820 BUs sent through India Posts, there are only nine Docket Nos. assigned for the total consignment, which comprises two boxes with 50 BUs each and one box each with 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 110 and 210 BUs.

“This is misleading as each box has a specific size depending on the dimensions of the BUs. The BEL’s reply shows the entire consignment was posted in only nine boxes, though the Indian Posts does not accept — nor is equipped to handle — such huge parcels,” Roy said.

BEL said on April 6 and April 10, 2017, that it delivered VVPATs in three parcels — 65, 70 and 110, respectively — ‘By Hand’ and ‘urgent delivery’ to avoid the regular logistics route.

In March this year, Pawar & Company had filed Roy’s PIL, seeking detailed investigations into the delivery of EVMs and a ban on deploying EVMs/VVPATs till the outcome of the probe.

As the country prepares for the 2019 general elections, several instances of “indiscriminate” orders and deliveries of EVMs have emerged in RTI responses, Roy said.

Between 1989-1990 to 2015-2016, BEL supplied 125,149 EVMs to Karnataka, 169,975 to Bihar, 159,900 to Uttar Pradesh, 140,500 to Tamil Nadu, 87,325 to Andhra Pradesh, 50,850 to Gujarat, 50,050 to Rajasthan, 23,000 to Jharkhand, 10,000 to Delhi, 3,000 to Manipur and 2,000 to Sikkim.

Inexplicably, BEL also supplied 500 EVMs to Chandigarh, which is the only city to get its own machines. Elsewhere, the EVMs go to the respective states from where they are distributed. Roy demanded that BEL — and the Election Commission of India — must explain why Chandigarh got this differential treatment.

According to information received by Roy, in 2013-2014, BEL supplied the highest number of VVPATs — 2,455 — to Karnataka, followed by 2,275 to Bihar, 2,140 to Gujarat, 1,500 to Mizoram, 1,475 to Tamil Nadu, 130 to Delhi and 25 to EC.

The other EVM supplier ECIL, Hyderabad, said in response to RTI queries that in 2014-2015 it had supplied 10,000 VVPATs to the Commission (EC).

Significantly, ECIL earlier said it had not supplied a single EVM to any state between 2006-2007 till 2013-2014.

In another communication under RTI, ECIL stated that in 2004-2005 it had supplied 91,050 BUs and 91,050 Control Units (CUs) and from 2014 to 2017 it had sent out 294,337 BUs and 109,075 CUs.

“So where are all these huge number of machines now? The ECIL and EC must clarify,” Roy said.

Kerala State Election Commission (KSEC) said in response to RTI queries that in 2015 it had ordered 128,154 EVMs, comprising 9,753 boxes of BUs and 3,125 boxes of CUs. Each box has an average capacity of holding 10 BUs or CUs, depending on the model.

Roy said that there was inadequate accounting of EVMs at various stages, raising questions about the sanctity of the machines on which the Indian democracy was so dependent.

Also, there were no proper records of the EVMs that were actually deployed for elections, the details of defective/defunct machines, the different types of models acquired and used and the type of software-hardware used, he added.

Further, in view of the latest statement by the EC that EVMs used in recent Delhi University elections were supplied by manufacturers directly and were ‘distinctly different’ than those supplied to the Commission, detailed accounting of the machines is required, Roy told IANS.

(Quaid Najmi can be reached at [email protected])

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