The Election Commission on Friday, April 2, suspended four poll officials and ordered repolling in a booth in Ratabari constituency of Assam after the electronic voting machine (EVM) was found in a vehicle belonging to the wife of Krishnendu Paul, a BJP contestant in Patharkandi. The presiding officer, responsible for the transportation of the EVM, was among those suspended in connection with the incident.
The Election Commission said that the seal of the EVM was found intact "without any damage whatsoever", reported Scroll.in.
The poll body said that one of the polling officers was missing until Thursday morning and a search operation was carried out all night.
"This delayed the transmission of this report by a few hours," the body said.
Meanwhile, violence occurred in Assam's Barak Valley on Thursday, April 1, after a private vehicle was used by poll officers to transport an EVM. The EVM was found in a jeep registered in the name of BJP MLA from Patharkandi, Krishnendu Paul's wife.
A group of locals found the private vehicle and attacked it with stones. A superintendent of police was also injured during the clash.
A video of the incident went viral on social media, triggering outrage from the opposition.
The poll panel, in its report, said that the polling party was on its way to the strongroom on Thursday after the polls concluded, when their vehicle broke down around 9 pm near Nilam Bazaar. "They were accompanied by the police personnel, comprising a constable and a home guard," the report said.
"Since the weather, that day was very bad with heavy rainfall and unprecedented traffic congestion, the party got off from its convoy," the panel's report said.
But instead of waiting for the sector officer to send a replacement vehicle, the party decided to take a lift from a passerby.
"The officials did so as to reach the Material Receipt Centre faster since they were in the custody of polled EVMs," the EC report said.
"At about 2120 hrs [9 pm], the polling party hailed a passing vehicle and boarded it along with their EVM and other things without checking the ownership of the vehicle bearing the number AS-10B-0022," the EC report said. As per the poll panel, the officials were still not aware of the car owner's identity.
A few kilometres ahead, the panel said that the car was stopped by some people, who started pelting stones and refused to let the vehicle pass.
When the officials confronted them, they were told that the vehicle belonged to BJP leader Krishnendu Paul who is a contesting candidate of a neighbouring constituency.
The EC report said that "it was only then that the officials realised that something was amiss and alerted the sector officer".
"However, a larger crowd had gathered by then and they were attacked and held hostage by a mob along with the EVM in the vehicle at 2145 hrs alleging that the EVM was being taken to be tampered with," the report added.
The police was rushed to the spot, as the "mob had turned violent and had damaged the glass of the vehicle by stone pelting", the EC said.
Assam concluded the second phase of polling, recording over 77 per cent turnout and some instances of violence.