Political party bribed army officers: Election Commissioner

By Dipankar De Sarkar, IANS,

London : Members of a political party bribed army officers in a blatant bid to rig postal ballots during last month’s general elections in India, according to Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi.

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The visiting Indian civil servant, who was giving a presentation on the just-concluded elections at the House of Commons Tuesday, said the malpractice came to light during the polls in Punjab.

He said Punjab Police personnel found that army soldiers were being corralled into voting for particular candidates by their commanding officers.

“We realised that the commanding officers of these forces were being approached by a political party and they were being bribed. And these soldiers had been told to just say ‘yes sir.’

“There is no other word in their dictionary. So if a commanding officer says ‘just vote for this man’, all the soldiers will vote for that man,” Quraishi said, answering a question about whether India – like Britain – faced problems with postal ballot fraud.

Six Pakistani-origin men were jailed for a total of more than 13 years last month after a major police investigation into an attempt to rig local council elections by fixing ballot papers in the London suburb of Slough.

The malpractice was described by the British judge as a “serious criminal offence� that attacks, affects and corrodes the roots of our democracy”.

Quraishi said he was not aware of the British scandal but added that India was trying to address the problem of postal ballot fraud by strengthening the secret ballot.

He said every ballot in India has to be posted separately and by registered post, the cost of which is borne by the Election Commission.