Madhya Pradesh polls: Why did Election Commission ignore muliple complaints by Congress?

The state witnessed large-scale election-related violence for the first time, Congress leadr and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijaya Singh said

Congress workers led by Digvijaya Singh stage a dharna in front of Khajuraho police station
Congress workers led by Digvijaya Singh stage a dharna in front of Khajuraho police station

AJ Prabal

Commenting on multiple reports of violence and attacks on Congress candidates and workers in Madhya Pradesh, former chief minister Digvijaya Singh on Sunday squarely blamed the Election Commission of India; but he went on to reiterate his pre-poll claim that Congress would be winning at least 130 seats in the state.

The Election Commission, he alleged, had ignored over a thousand poll-related complaints filed from the state by the Congress.

For the first time, he pointed out, Madhya Pradesh had witnessed large-scale violence during the polling. Post-poll violence and reports of attacks on Congress candidates and workers, he said, were coming in from several parts of the state. “We have zero expectation for justice from the Commission,” he added.

The Election Commission had turned a blind eye to the complaint that the state government had released seven crore Rupees to NGOs through the Jan Abhiyan Parishad after the election was notified. The NGOs worked for the BJP, he alleged.

The Commission had also taken no notice of the union home minister Amit Shah stating publicly that employees who fail to work for BJP’s victory would be taken care of. “What can we expect from the Election Commission?” he wondered aloud.

The former chief minister spent Saturday night at the Khajuraho police station, demanding the arrest of BJP candidate from Rajnagar constituency Arvind Pateria and 19 others named in the FIR. The BJP candidate and his men are accused of killing a Congress worker Salman Khan in the intervening night between 16 and 17 November, the polling day.

The family members of the deceased, Digvijaya Singh said, were demanding the arrest of the culprits and were refusing to bury the body.

BJP state president, V.D. Sharma, with whom Pateria is perceived to be close, dismissed the allegation of ‘murder’ as a gimmick and claimed the deceased had died accidentally. The BJP candidate himself released a video statement on the polling day, 17 November, in which he claimed that he learnt of the incident when he woke up that morning.

In another video, however, shared by Piyush Babele, media advisor to the Congress chief ministerial candidate Kamal Nath, Pateria is heard admitting that on the said night his own convoy had met the Congress candidate’s convoy of cars head-on on a forest road.

Since there was no space for two vehicles to pass each other, there was an altercation. Neither he nor the Congress candidate got down from their vehicles, he claimed. When they agreed to give way to the other, the said Congress worker tried to jump back into one of the vehicles but fell and was run over.

The FIR lodged by the Congress and the post-mortem report run contrary to such claims. The FIR mentions that Salman Khan was first hit by a blunt object and when he fell, was run over by as many as 10 and more vehicles. The post-mortem report appears to confirm this. Khajuraho Police, which had been reluctant to lodge the FIR till then, was forced to lodge it after the report became public.

However, Pateria and the 19 men named in the FIR were absconding, the police claimed. This is contested by Congress leaders and Digvijaya Singh accused the police of allowing the accused to move freely, making no effort to seize the vehicles and examine them and recording no witness statement till Sunday afternoon on 19 November.

The Election Commission was alerted in October itself, he alleged, about the complicity of district officials in Chattarpur with the BJP. Arvind Pateria, the BJP candidate from Rajnagar is known in the area as ‘chief minister of Rajnagar’ and was involved in all the shady deals in the area, he alleged.

Senior district officials had been posted in the same place for 3-4 years and were protecting Pateria, who is close to the state BJP chief, he alleged. The Election Commission, however, ignored the complaints and did not order the transfer of the officials.

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