By-Election, Marred by Violence, Vote Fraud, Countermanded
NEW DELHI, India (AP) _ The Election Commission on Wednesday canceled a Feb. 27 state by-election allegedly rigged by supporters of a top leader of Prime Minister V.P. Singh’s party.
Chief Election Commissioner R.V.S. Peri Sastry said new voting had been ordered in the Meham constituency in Haryana state. The state’s chief minister, Om Prakash Chauthala, was the Janata Dal party candidiate in Meham.
Press Trust of India quoted Sastry as saying that the decision was taken because ″the entire electoral process was vitiated.″
Chauthala, who is also the eldest son of Deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal, was linked by newspapers to widespread violence and vote fraud in Meham.
At least 13 people were killed in the constituency on Feb. 27-28 when new balloting was conducted in a few voting centers. Several newspapers reported from Meham that Chauthala’s supporters allegedly instigated violence and stuffed hundreds of ballot boxes, aided by the state police.
Chauthala has denied the charges, saying they are politically motivated. He has also not responded to demands by newspapers and opposition parties that he resign.
Most political parties, including the Janata Dal, had asked the Election Commission to order new balloting in Meham.
The decision followed investigations by an Election Commission team that returned to New Delhi on Tuesday from Meham, 60 miles northwest of the capital.
Chauthala, who was appointed to the chief minister’s elected post, was required under Indian electoral laws to seek the voters’ mandate to ratify his position.
He was named the chief minister after his father resigned from the post to join the federal government as deputy prime minister.
The by-election, a special vote between regular elections, was held along with balloting for eight state legislatures and that of a federally controlled territory.
The Press Trust news agency said the entire election process would have to begin anew, which will take at least 31 days.