Poll Violence In Madhya Pradesh's Ater, Congress Candidate Alleges Attack

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Congress candidate Hemant Katare has alleged that he was attacked during the Ater by-polls

Ater, Madhya Pradesh:  Cars were vandalised and several people were injured today as polling was held in Bhind, Madhya Pradesh following the huge controversy on EVM tampering. Sankari village, where two poll booths came under attack, is known to be a BJP stronghold, and is currently under heavy police presence. The authorities, however, have called it a minor stone pelting incident that has been brought under control.

At least four cars were vandalized and their windscreens were broken in Sankari village of Bhind district. The riot control police had to be brought in to control the situation. "They came with sticks and stones and broke our windows, the cops didn't help," an injured man with a bleeding elbow told NDTV. The police said they had fired in the air to control the unruly mob.

Ater is witnessing a straight fight between the Congress and the ruling BJP, after the previous legislator, Satyadev Katare, died earlier this year. It was his son Hemant Katare, the Congress contestant, who said he had been attacked today.

"We got news of booth capturing in Sankari and rushed there. The BJP government in power is doing everything to win this election... They have descended to attacking us. Just look at the state of my car and driver," Mr Katare told NDTV.

Mr Katare alleges when he tried to raise the issue of booth capturing with the authorities, he got attacked by furious locals who belonged to a BJP stronghold village. Villagers, he said, attacked his car with stones and rods.

Appearing to confirm Mr Katare's version, a personnel of CISF who was on duty at one of the polling booths, said, "Each person was coming to vote five times. When we tried to stop them, they said what does it matter to you? They threw stones at us and also tried snatching our guns".

A local BJP worker said Hemant Katare called it upon himself.  "It was Hemant Katare who abused our elders, how can we take that lying down?" said Vinay Pathak, a local BJP member, alleging that the Congress candidate used vulgar language on an elderly person.

Even the versions of villagers didn't match. A local priest said the attack on Hemant Katare took place after "he cast 50 false votes in his favour".

The by-election in Bhind became the focus of a huge controversy after reports that machines with the Voter Verified Audit Slip Facility or VVPATs were dispensing slips with the BJP symbol irrespective of which button was pressed. The opposition Congress, Mayawati and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal claimed that it was evidence of tampering of EVMs after the recent round of assembly elections in five states and raised concerns about the by-elections.

The Election Commission dismissed the possibility of tampering, saying the machine in question was kept in reserve during the Uttar Pradesh elections. The poll body also said that while Electronic Voting Machines cannot be re-used within 45 days of an election, no such rules apply to the VVPAT machines.

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