A day after Akhilesh Yadav’s sensational charge that Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) were moved illegally in Uttar Pradesh’s Varanasi just 48 hours before the counting of votes in state elections, his party tweeted the on-camera statement of an official conceding there were “lapses”.
Speaking to reporters last evening, Varanasi’s Commissioner Deepak Agarwal appeared to accept that there was a lapse in protocol in the movement of EVMs. However, he insisted that the vote machines in question were only for training purposes.
“If you talk about the protocol for the movement of EVMs, there was a lapse in the protocol, I accept that. But I can guarantee you, it is impossible to take away machines used in voting,” Mr Agarwal said, explaining that there were CCTV cameras, security guards and political party representatives at counting centres.
“Political party workers can even sit outside the centres to keep an eye,” added the Commissioner.
The Samajwadi Party shared the comment on Twitter and said it was an admission that protocol was not followed.
“There is information of violations in EVMs from various districts. On whose order is this happening? Are officials under pressure from the Chief Minister’s (Yogi Adityanath) Office? The Election Commission must clarify,” the Samajwadi Party wrote, tagging the poll body.
On Tuesday, Akhilesh Yadav accused the ruling BJP of trying to “steal” the election and alleged that EVMs were moved out of a counting centre in three trucks.
Claiming video evidence, the Samajwadi chief also said his party workers had intercepted one of the trucks in Varanasi.
“In Varanasi, we caught one truck with EVMs and two others fled. If the government is not trying to steal votes, then it should at least explain why there was no security while moving EVMs,” Mr Yadav said.
He also alleged that officials had orders to slow down the counting of votes at places where the chances of the BJP candidate’s win are slimmer. The instructions were specifically given for 47 seats where the BJP’s margin of victory in the 2017 election was less than 5,000 votes, Mr Yadav claimed.
BJP leader and UP Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya rubbished the Samajwadi Party chief’s allegation and said: “I would ask Akhilesh Yadav to be patient. What is in the EVMs will be known on March 10 (Thursday) when votes are counted.”
After month-long elections, results will be declared for Uttar Pradesh and four other states as votes are counted on Thursday.
Exit polls have predicted a big victory for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. Akhilesh Yadav, who is the main challenger to the BJP in this election, is tipped to finish second in the race to win India’s most politically vital state.