Friday, September 29, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Faulty EVMs replaced in Sunam
Protest by ‘sanjha morcha’ men
From Sushil Goyal
and Sumer Garg

SUNAM, Sept 28 — Activists of the Congress and the SHSAD raised a hue and cry when told the presiding officers had found that only five buttons of the control unit of the 14 electronic voting machines (EVMs), instead of 13, were working. The remaining eight buttons of each EVM failed to register votes during checking of the machines.

The presiding officers were issued EVMs today for polling in 147 booths of the Sunam Assembly constituency tomorrow. As many as 13 candidates are in the fray for the byelection.

Talking to The Tribune here today, Mr Praneet Bhardwaj, Returning Officer for the constituency-cum-SDM, Sunam, said the administration had sought an explanation from the officers who had installed the machines on September 25 in the presence of representatives of the candidates and election observers. The candidates’ representatives had given certificates that the EVMs were in order.

Mr Bhardwaj said it might be possible that all 13 buttons of the control unit of 14 EVMs were not reset as a matter of oversight since these EVMs had been brought here from Amritsar with five buttons already set. He said the EVMs had been sealed after the machines were set on September 25 in the presence of representatives of all candidates.

Mr Bhardwaj said now all machines were in order as these had been replaced with EVMs kept in reserve. He said a mock poll exercise on each EVM would be held tomorrow at every polling booth at 6 a.m. in the presence of polling agents. Later the machine would be sealed.

Mr Varinder Kataria, a former president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) and a former MP, said the incident had created doubts in the minds of the people on the effectiveness of EVMs. He said the Congress would win this byelection if the poll was held in a fair manner.

Prof Prem Singh Chandumajra, candidate of the ‘sanjha morcha’, Mr Charan Singh Luhara, General Secretary of the SAD (A), and Mr Sant Ram Singla, election in charge of the Congress candidate, Mrs Parmeswari Devi, also expressed doubts whether the poll would be free and fair.

Supporters of the ‘sanjha morcha’ candidate, Prof Prem Singh Chandumajra, held a demonstration in the SDM office complex on the issue.

About 1.39 lakh voters of this rural and Dalit-dominated constituency will decide the political fortune of 13 candidates in the fray, including Union Sports Minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa’s son Parminder Singh Dhindsa, who is contesting for the first time as the candidate of the ruling Akali-BJP combine.

This lone byelection in the state was caused due to the death of Congress MLA Bhagwan Das Arora whose wife Parmeshwari Devi is the party candidate. Former MP and General Secretary of the former SGPC chief Gurcharan Singh Tohra-led Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal (SHSAD) Prem Singh Chandumajra, Mr Sukhjinder Singh of the Akali Dal (Democratic) led by Lok Sabha member from Sangrur Simranjit Singh Mann, Mr Sampuran Singh of the CPI and Mr Kartar Singh of the Republican Party of India are among the candidates. There are seven Independents. Two candidates, including an Independent, are women.

To maintain law and order and ensure a free and fair poll, the district administration has made elaborate security arrangements. About 55 polling booths have been identified as “sensitive” where special security arrangements have been made. Commandos have also been attached to the security team. All 13 candidates in the fray have also been provided a security cover. Orders have been issued for prohibition of liquor till the end of polling tomorrow.

Counting of votes, also through the EVMs, will begin at 0800 hours on October 3.


Veerappan’s hostage escapes

CHENNAI/MYSORE, Sept 28 (UNI) — In a sensational turn to the 60-day-old hostage crisis involving film star Rajkumar, one of the four captives, Nagappa, escaped from the hideout of forest brigand Veerappan, in the early hours today.

On reaching the Dodagajanur bungalow at 5 p.m., he told a group of newspersons that he had managed to give a slip to the brigand and left the forest at 3.25 a.m.

Nagappa, an assistant film director, though looking shell-shocked, having sustained a head injury and bruises, said he was keeping good health.


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