181 votes cast in Assam booth that has 90 voters

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(Eds: Adds details) Haflong/Guwahati (Assam), Apr 5 (PTI) Total 181 votes were cast in a booth in Assam's Dima Hasao district, even though 90 people were eligible to exercise their franchise, the chief electoral officer said on Monday, revealing a massive irregularity.

The booth is in the Haflong constituency, which went to the polls in the second phase on April 1. Haflong witnessed 74 per cent polling.

As the incident came to light, the district election officer suspended five poll officials of the booth, set up at 107(A) Khotlir LP School, and proposed a repoll.

However, the official order for reelection at the booth, an auxiliary polling station of the main voting centre at Mouldam LP School, is yet to be issued.

The opposition Congress demanded repolling at the polling station.

The suspension order by the deputy commissioner-cum- district election officer of Dima Hasao was issued on April 2, but it came to light on Monday morning.

Stating 'dereliction of duty', the EC suspended sector officer Seikhosiem Lhangum, presiding officer Prahlad Ch Roy, first polling officer Parameswar Charangsa, second polling officer Swaraj Kanti Das and third polling officer Lalzamlo Thiek with immediate effect.

'As per the valid electoral roll, there are only 90 electors in this polling station...total 181 votes were cast at polling station No 107-A on April 1, 2021,' Chief Electoral Officer Nitin Khade said in a statement.

The irregularities came to light during the scrutiny of the presiding officer's diary and other documents, he said.

'The presiding and first polling officer in their statements have admitted that they had allowed the voters registered at the main polling station to cast their votes at the auxiliary polling station,' Khade said.

The CEO also said the returning officer through the district election officer has recommended repoll at both the main and auxiliary polling stations, but a final decision is awaited from the Election Commission of India.

The main polling station No 107 Mualdam LP has 616 electors as per the voters' list, he added.

'The auxiliary polling station No 107-A has been created for the first time to facilitate the voters in the remote area as the polling percentage in the last parliamentary election was only 34 per cent,' he said.

Meanwhile, another official said the head of that interior village refused to accept the voters' list of the auxiliary booth and brought a list of his own.

'Then, the people of the village voted according to that list,' the official told PTI.

It was not immediately known why the polling officials accepted the village head's demand and whether there was any security personnel present at the polling station or the role they played.

Congress spokesperson Rhituporna Konwar alleged that the Election Commission is 'not serious' about holding free and fair elections in the state.

'If the EC was serious, it would have announced a re- poll at the booth by now as it is already four days since the polling took place. We demand immediate announcement of the re-polling at that particular centre,' he added.

CPI (ML) Liberation general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya tweeted, '90 people were eligible to vote in a booth in Assam's Dima Hasao District, but magically 171 votes were cast. In Assam, EVM travels in BJP cars and phantom votes accompany actual votes in remote booths.' PTI TR COR SOM ACD ACD