Amid the ongoing Phase 3 polls of the 2021 West Bengal Assembly Election on Tuesday, four electronic voting machines (EVMs) and a similar number of voter verifiable paper audit trails (VVPATs) were found at the residence of a Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader in West Bengal's Howrah district.
Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress is the ruling party in the state.
According to the Election Commission of India (ECI), the incident happened in Tulsiberia village, in the Uluberia Uttar assembly segment.
"Locals spotted a vehicle with an Election Commission sticker outside the house of the TMC leader in the early hours on Tuesday and started protesting. Later it was found that the officer of sector 17 Tapan Sarkar was visiting TMC leader Gautam Ghosh’s house with the voting machines," an official said.
#BREAKING : #Ulluberia North incident where #EVMs were found in #TMC leader Gautam Ghosh’s residence. Sector Officer #TapanSarkar has been suspended.— ज़ाहिद अब्बास ZAHID ABBAS 🇮🇳 (@abbaszahid24) April 6, 2021
These were reserved #EVMs that have now been seized by #EC.#WestBengalElections2021 #WestBengalElections pic.twitter.com/oyRooXrqOO
The official further revealed that they have suspended the sector officer, while the EVMs and VVPAT machines, which were recovered, were kept as reserve.
"After the incident, the machines have been withdrawn from the poll process and replaced with new ones. All the political parties have been informed. Action is also likely to be taken against police personnel,” said a senior poll panel officer in a statement.
Meanwhile, the sector officer has claimed that he reached the area very late and found the polling booth closed, following which he spent the night at the TMC leader’s house, who was his relative, along with the machines.
After the incident came to light, Bharatiya Janata Party state president Dilip Ghosh told state media "This is an old habit of the TMC. It takes time to get over the old habits. They have been caught red-handed and it shows what they are up to."
Voting for the third phase of the West Bengal elections is underway in 31 constituencies. Polling began at 7 am (local time) amid tight security.
However, several incidents of violence have already been reported. In Canning Purba Assembly segment, a person was injured after a makeshift bomb exploded outside a polling booth. Saukat Mollah, the TMC candidate, blamed Indian Secular Front supporters for the violence.
Meanwhile, the former governor of Tripura, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Tathagata Roy, claimed that a BJP worker's mother had been murdered, alleging that TMC 'goons' in the state's Hooghly district were the culprits.
In Goghat,Distt Hooghly,West Bengal Piru Adak,a BJP worker was attacked by Trinamool goons. When his mother Madhavi tried to save him the goons attacked and killed her.— Tathagata Roy (@tathagata2) April 6, 2021
The ECI has already imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC (prohibit the assembly of four or more people in an area) in all the constituencies, declaring them as 'sensitive'.