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Ladakh: EC cautions against officers allegedly asking jawans their poll preferences, Army denies claim

May 10 (AZINS) A major controversy has erupted after a independent candidate from Ladakh Lok Sabha constituency alleged that the army officers are violating the poll secrecy by asking jawans about their voting preferences instead of supplying them ballot papers.

Acting on the complaint, Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Leh Avny Lavasa has written to the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of Leh based 14 Corps asking him to sensitize the officers about the voting process.

“A complaint has been received from a contesting candidate for the Ladakh Parliamentary Constituency for the Lok Sabha elections, 2019, wherein it is alleged that there are malpractices on part of various Commanding Officers of the Indian Army in the electronic postal ballot system. It is alleged that the Commanding Officers are telephonically asking jawans for their voting preference rather than supplying to them the ballot paper for casting their votes”, read the DC letter to GoC 14 Corps.

Cautioning against the malpractice, Lavasa has asked the GOC to sensitize the officers about the sanctity of the election process.  “This is a gross violation of the secrecy of voting and malpractice that has the potential to invite strict legal action. In this context, it is requested that all the concerned officers may be sensitized about the issue and the sanctity of election process maintained,” the letter addedThis follows the formal complaint filed by the independent candidate Sajjad Hussain to Lavasa about the violation of the right to vote of the army personnel.

“That the system of postal ballot is that the district election office send postal ballot in bulk directly to their unit head and the superior officers of the unit either retains or did not deliver those to the individual service voters. In most cases the superior officer due to limited time himself exercise the proxy votes on behalf of the individual without legal authority”, read the complaint of Sajjad. 

Colonel Rajesh Kalia, defense spokesman at Srinagar, said  preliminary investigations indicate that the complaints are unfounded and appear to have been made to tarnish the image of Army

“No specific instances have been mentioned in the complaints. Preliminary investigations indicate that the complaints are unfounded and appear to have been made to tarnish the image of Army. In-depth investigation is on to ascertain the details in the most impartial manner. The army remains apolitical and we hold this core value in letter and spirit”, said  Colonel Kalia

Ladakh Lok Sabha constituency went to polls in the fifth phase on May 6 with 63.70 percent electorate exercising their right to franchise. Four candidates including two independents are in the fray for the seat.