A day after a BJP agent was accused of forcing women to vote for his party during the sixth phase of the Lok Sabha polls in Faridabad's Asaoti village, the Election Commission on Monday ordered re-polling at the booth and initiated action against three officials for "dereliction of duty".
Voting will now be held again on May 19, as part of the seventh phase of the polls. "The presiding office, Amit Atri, has been placed under suspension for dereliction of duty, and criminal action is also being initiated against the presiding officer. Micro-observer Sonal Gulati has been barred from election-related work for three years on charges of not reporting the incident correctly," a press release issued by the Election Commission said. Besides this, it ordered the transfer of the returning officer concerned with immediate effect - to be replaced by IAS officer Ashok Kumar Garg.
The Election Commission jumped into action after a video of the incident cropped up on Twitter on Sunday. It showed the BJP polling agent - Giriraj Singh - approaching the voting compartment even as a woman was preparing to cast her vote. He appeared to gesture at the voting machine before returning to his seat. Giriraj Singh was later seen repeating the act with two other women, undeterred by the presence of election officials in the booth.
Although the BJP agent has denied all charges, claiming that he was only trying to help "illiterate" women from the village cast their votes, the Election Commission has ordered that a first information report be filed against him under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Representation of the People Act.
When NDTV zeroed in on one of the women involved in the incident, she confirmed that Giriraj Singh had instructed her to punch the button next to the BJP's electoral symbol. "He told me to vote for the lotus. But I told him that it was my choice, and I will vote for any party I want. I left soon afterwards," said Shobha, a resident of the village.
The woman said she did not complain to anybody at the polling booth because she had to hurry home to her ailing daughter.
However, Giriraj Singh said he wasn't even aware that going near the voting machine was a poll violation. "I was only trying to help," he told NDTV. "There are two voting machines and 28 candidates in the (Faridabad Lok Sabha) constituency, and the women of this village are illiterate. Even educated people get confused when it comes to using these machines. I was only showing them how to do it."
The Faridabad Lok Sabha constituency voted in the sixth phase of the Lok Sabha elections on Sunday.