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Bulandshahr BJP candidate-MP leashed after booth stunt

Bhola Singh, who local media said entered half-a-dozen booths, was caught on camera forcing his way into one of them

By Piyush Srivastava in Lucknow

  • Published 19.04.19, 8:05 AM
  • Updated 19.04.19, 8:05 AM
The Election Commission
The Election Commission A Telegraph picture

The Election Commission on Thursday put the BJP candidate-cum-MP from Bulandshahr under house arrest after he entered a polling booth and allegedly interacted with voters, overcoming a paramilitary guard’s resistance with a phone call to the district magistrate.

Bhola Singh, who local media said entered half-a-dozen booths, was caught on camera forcing his way into one of them: Booth 276 at the JP Janata Inter College polling station in Bulandshahr town, 520km west of Lucknow.

Video clips that have gone viral show Bhola calling someone on his mobile phone when Deep Chand, a CRPF hawaldar, prevents him from entering the booth. DM Abhay Singh, the designated district electoral officer, later confirmed he was on the other side of the line.

Bhola is seen passing the cellphone over to Chand and purportedly saying: “Andar nahin jaane doge to lo, baat karo (If you won’t let me in, take it and talk).”

“Hello; haan sir, boliye,” Chand is heard saying.

After a pause, he says: “Baahar nahin bheje sir, hamare liye allow nahin hai sir EVM ke paas jane ke liye, sir (I didn’t ask him to go out, sir. We are not allowed to let anyone to go near the EVM).”

Chand then listens for a while and eventually says: “Haan, sir? Haan, sir. Theek hai, sir (What, sir? Yes, sir. Right, sir.)”

He returns the mobile to Bhola and lets him enter the booth. For the next few minutes, the clips show several reporters talking to Chand.

“He (Bhola) wanted to go near the EVM to talk to someone,” Chand is purportedly heard saying in a subdued voice. “I didn’t have orders to let any non-voter enter, but the district electoral officer asked me to let him in.”

After about five minutes, Bhola is seen stepping out of the booth arm in arm with a voter, both men laughing.

Some people who were inside the booth claimed Bhola had stood near the electronic voting machine and spoken to several voters, touching the feet of the older among them.

Bhola’s political rivals complained about the “delay” in the Election Commission issuing the house arrest order and questioned the DM’s role. They accused Bhola of entering the booths to intimidate voters by signalling he was watching who they were voting for.

Yogesh Verma of the Bahujan Samaj Party, the alliance candidate from the seat, said he had complained about the 8.30am incident within half an hour, calling the DM and faxing the poll panel.

The DM told reporters around noon that the Election Commission had directed him to place Bhola under house arrest. But local media said Bhola continued to move around the town, entering booths, till 1pm.

“It’s a question of perception whether the MP violated the model code of conduct,” the DM told reporters.

“Candidates can enter the booths if they have any doubt about the election process. But, on complaints from some political leaders that he was influencing voters, we have put him under house arrest.”

Just before entering his home around 1.15pm to comply with the house arrest order, Bhola told reporters he had entered Booth 276 after receiving a complaint that the electronic voting machine (EVM) had developed “a technical snag”.

“I received a complaint that the EVM was slow. I went there to check it and I checked it.”

He conceded that he had not found any problems with the machine, but added: “I will ask the Election Commission why I am being prevented from moving out of my house.”

Told that he was seen talking to voters near the EVM, Bhola said: “I talked to my voters when they came out of the booth…. You have no proof (that he spoke to voters inside the booth); so stop saying this.”

BSP candidate Verma said the poll panel should check the booths’ security cameras. He urged the commission to act to restore voter confidence in the poll process.

“The MP visited several booths till 1pm before the Election Commission took cognisance of my complaint,” he said.

Congress candidate Bansi Singh Pahariya said Bhola had entered the booths “to spy on” the “traditional BJP voters who have turned against him” because of his long absences from the constituency.

He alleged: “The district electoral officer is hand in glove with the MP in violating the model code of conduct. This is why people are gradually losing trust in some officials of the Election Commission.”

Bulandshahr is a seat reserved for Scheduled Caste candidates.

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