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‘Sinister’ design of state govt to rig polls: SS Ahluwalia

Darjeeling : Alleging that a sinister design is being hatched by the Trinamool Congress-led state government to rig the election, BJP candidate SS Ahluwalia today said his party will take up with the Election Commission the decision of shifting the counting venue from Darjeeling to the plains. In a candid interaction today with media persons in Darjeeling, he said, "My party will take up the issue of shifting the counting venue with the ECI. There is definitely a sinister design to rig the election. I will write to our central committee tomorrow to look into the matter.” Traditionally, vote counting is held at the playground of St. Joseph's School in Singamari, about 4km from town. However, the venue has been shifted to Siliguri College this time citing the refusal of St. Joseph's School authorities of providing the playground. "Since the first LS elections, the counting venue has always been in Darjeeling. 

It makes sense because it is a parliamentary constituency and Darjeeling is the headquarters while the returning officer also has his office here," explained Ahluwalia, wondering how the district administration failed to find an alternative venue in the hills. "The Election Commission spends a lot of money in conducting the polls and I think even if sheds are required for, that can be done. Besides, there are several alternatives in the hills for the purpose if willed,” he added. The BJP, candidate who will be addressing his first public meeting in Sukna on March 30, said doubts have started creeping into people's mind because of the administration's decision to shift the counting venue. "People have started doubting as to whether the election will be fair. The ECI says it wants a free and fair election, but going by the recent developments here, this seems hardly possible," said the GJM-backed candidate. Other political parties of the hills have also expressed resentment on the issue and even staged a walkout during an all-party meeting called recently by the district administration in Darjeeling.

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