Chandigarh Mayoral poll fiasco: Ballots not sealed after poll, Masih first took them to mayor’s office, says Oppn - Hindustan Times
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Chandigarh Mayoral poll fiasco: Ballots not sealed after poll, Masih first took them to mayor’s office, says Oppn

By, Chandigarh
Feb 13, 2024 09:46 AM IST

In a fresh development in the mayoral poll fiasco, official election videography has revealed that presiding officer Anil Masih disappeared into the mayor’s office with the ballot papers soon after the declaring the result, instead of sealing the record in the assembly hall.

In a fresh development in the mayoral poll fiasco, official election videography has revealed that presiding officer Anil Masih disappeared into the mayor’s office with the ballot papers soon after the declaring the result, instead of sealing the record in the assembly hall.

When the results were declared, 16 votes had been polled in BJP’s favour, 12 in the INDIA bloc’s favour and eight had been declared invalid. (HT Photo)
When the results were declared, 16 votes had been polled in BJP’s favour, 12 in the INDIA bloc’s favour and eight had been declared invalid. (HT Photo)

The entire election process was recorded on seven cameras. The official video, which is available with HT, reveals that soon after Masih announced the results and declared eight votes ‘invalid’, AAP councillor Manaur jumped on the table and manage to pry away a few ballot papers. In a bid to save the ballot papers, a few BJP councillors including Maheshinder Singh Sidhu and Kanwarjit Rana got into a scuffle with the AAP councillors. Soon, the marshals intervened, took possession of the ballot papers, and handed them to Masih, who instead of handing over the ballot papers to joint commissioner Isha Kamboj so that they could be sealed, went straight to the mayor’s office through the passage that connects the assembly hall and mayor’s office. A few BJP councillors, both elected and nominated, followed him to the mayor’s office.

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The ballot papers remained in the mayor’s office for 10 minutes, until MC secretary Gurinder Singh Sodhi, who had been assigned the duty of sealing the ballot papers for record by the deputy commissioner, brought them back to the Assembly Hall for sealing. As per officials, the papers were then sealed and taken to the strong room of the central treasury.

What are the rules

The rules state that ballot papers are to be sealed in the Assembly Hall right after the announcement of the results in the presence of councillors and the joint commissioner. Going by the rules, the presiding officer cannot take the ballot papers outside the Assembly Hall.

Interestingly, amid the entire fracas, joint commissioner Isha Kamboj, the officer responsible to ensure that the polls were conducted in a fair manner, did not intervene or try to take possession of the ballot papers.

In another incidence of the protocol being flouted, the deputy commissioner Vinay Pratap Singh, who should have stayed inside the Assembly Hall till the results were declared and the records were sealed, left the hall during the polling of the votes. The votes were declared invalid and the results announced in the DC’s absence.

Despite repeated attempts, neither Kamboj nor Vinay Pratap Singh responded to HT’s queries.

What the opposition says

AAP co-incharge SS Ahluwalia says, “In the election videos, Masih is clearly seen tampering with the ballot papers. BJP councillors were also seen directing the videographers to pan the camera away from Masih in a bid to aid them. On top of it, Masih took the ballot papers with him instead of handing them over for sealing. No one knows what he was doing with the ballot papers. Why did he go where there were no cameras? Was he replacing the ballots to keep them on record? No one knows.”

An MC official, privy to the election procedure, said, “In the scuffle that broke out between AAP and BJP councillors, two ballot papers got torn. But all the votes (36 in number) were sealed and kept in record.”

How invalid votes turned in favour of BJP

In the 35-member MC House, the AAP and the Congress that had come together as part of the INDIA bloc, were sure of a win as they had a combined strength of 20 councillors. The BJP, meanwhile, had 14 councillors and one vote of the Chandigarh MP, who is an ex-officio member of the House. The sole Shiromani Akali Dal councillor in the House had demanded the none-of-the-above (NOTA) option. However, his request was declined.

When the results were declared, 16 votes had been polled in BJP’s favour, 12 in the INDIA bloc’s favour and eight had been declared invalid.

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