Kolkata: “This time the Trinamool Congress (TMC) people have told us that there will be CCTV cameras inside the polling booths and everything will be recorded, so they will be able to see where we have cast our votes after elections are over,” claims a voter from the Bongaon Lok Sabha constituency in West Bengal.
Residents from across several of Bengal’s constituencies say that they are being told by TMC’s door-to-door campaigners that their votes would be recorded and seen by the ruling party after the elections get over. This has created a sense of fear and confusion amongst many voters.
Shibshankar Das from the Haridaspur village in Bongaon Lok Sabha constituency says that even panchayat level leaders have issued similar warnings.
“The panchayat leader from TMC, along with 10 to 12 men, came here last week and told us that if we did not vote for the TMC, they would get to know because this time the Election Commission has set up CCTVs in all the booths to monitor the polling process. Now the local residents are scared even to go to vote,” Das says.
Another voter from the neighbouring Basirhat constituency too told this newspaper something similar: “The local TMC leaders came on Wednesday and they told us that we must vote for TMC. They also told us that the VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) machines would record who we have voted for and they would get to see later for whom we have voted.”
Similarly, residents from constituencies such as Ghatal, Medinipur, Tamluk, Ranaghat from across Bengal claim that this is being spread by local TMC workers to “threaten” voters before the polls.
However, those voters who are aware of the facts told this newspaper that they know that votes can never be seen and identified by any individual or even the Election Commission.
The local Bharatiya Janata Party units that are not being able to conduct door-to-door campaigns due to intimidation and threats, are using social media to debunk these false claims by the TMC.
A senior BJP leader told this correspondent, “We have formed WhatsApp groups and are taking the help of Facebook to reach out to voters as we are not being able to go door to door. Our youth team is managing both these social media platforms through which we are putting out messages every morning to the voters and assuring them that no such thing is possible and each vote is secure and confidential.” The BJP has also said that it is the Election Commission’s responsibility to ensure free and fair elections and it should carry out a campaign to debunk such malicious claims. Attempts to contact the office of the Chief Electoral Officer of West Bengal remained futile until the time of going to press despite repeated calls and messages.
However, Vivek Dubey, Special Police Observer for West Bengal, told The Sunday Guardian, “There will be webcasting in the booths, which will be manned by the state police to ensure that there is no rigging; this does not mean that voters’ secrecy will be compromised. This is totally false. We will deploy 234 companies of Central forces in the third phase and we are also engaging in confidence building.”