India election: Polling agent arrested 'for telling women how to vote'

'The system acted well in time and the wrongdoer is behind bars'

Adam Withnall
Monday 13 May 2019 12:54 BST
Video purports to show polling agent interfering as women vote in Haryana, India

A man has been arrested in India after a viral video appeared to show an official at a polling station interfering as multiple women went to cast their votes.

India is one day of voting away from completing its marathon six-week general election, and from WhatsApp to Facebook, social media channels are awash with messages urging caution to protect the veracity of the polls.

One post on Twitter that was shared by many thousands of people on Sunday night showed a man in a blue T-shirt getting up from a table inside a polling station and stepping behind the booth where a woman was voting, reaching across her to either press or point at the interface of the electronic voting machine (EVM).

The man then repeats this with two other women before going back to sit down at the table. The person who shared the video said they were “shocked and saddened by how much the system gets abused”.

Haryana’s election commissioner confirmed the incident took place during phase six of the vote on Sunday in the city of Faridabad.

Commissioner Ashok Lavasa said in a response on Twitter that “the person in the video is the polling agent who has been arrested [on Sunday] afternoon itself”.

The polling agent “was trying to affect at least three lady voters”, Mr Lavasa said. A first incident report (FIR) had been lodged with Faridabad police and an initial investigation by the local election observer left him “satisfied that voting was never vitiated”.

“The system acted well in time and the wrongdoer is behind bars,” the district election office said in a statement. “Thanks to all the voters for showing so much trust in the Election Commission of India.”

India has more than 900 million eligible voters, and the polls have been split over phases for security reasons.

Faridabad was among 59 constituencies voting on Sunday, leaving just 60 of the 543 seats to be decided in phase seven on 19 May.

Though it sits in the northern state of Haryana, Faridabad lies on the edge of the National Capital Territory that encompasses Delhi.

All seven of Delhi’s parliamentary seats also voted on Sunday, and The Independent found a city divided between staunch supporters of the incumbent prime minister Narendra Modi and those who backed a mixed bag of opposition parties.

India’s fate will be announced once counting is concluded on 23 May, and while pre-election opinion polls predict Mr Modi will be back for a second term, he may find his majority dramatically reduced and be subject to a lengthy period of coalition talks.

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