Polling on the first day of the ‘historic’ Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) elections on Wednesday was marred by allegations of illegal extended canvassing on an FM Radio station and inside the polling booth by one party. The campaigning period had ended on Tuesday evening.
Senior Supreme Court advocate Vikas Singh lodged a written complaint with retired IAS officer Rakesh Mehta, the Returning Officer for the DDCA Elections, claiming that presidential candidate and India TV Editor-in-Chief Rajat Sharma continued to campaign on FM Radio 107.2 even on Wednesday, on his channel India TV, and sat “inside the voting area” for a while, “influencing votes”.
The ‘Trustworthy Group’, of which former India all-rounder Madan Lal is challenging Rajat Sharma and Vikas Singh for the president’s post, also lodged a written complaint with the Mehta. On behalf of this group, Manjit Singh, the aspirant for the general secretary’s post, emailed the complaint to Mehta.
Both Vikas Singh and Manjit said that Mehta told them that he would issue a show cause notice to Rajat Sharma.
However, Mehta said he has only asked Rajat Sharma to “respond” to the complaints. “I have asked to respond to the complaints,” Mehta told Outlook. Asked if it was a cause notice, he said: “Whatever you may want to see it as...”
Mehta confirmed that he has received more than one complaint. “Vikas Singh complained that Rajat Sharma kept sitting in the voting room after casting his vote. Ab woh baithe rahe to baithe rahe [if he kept sitting he kept sitting]; jo ho gaya so ho gaya [whatever happened has happened]. But we asked him to leave the room, after which the slogan shouting started between the rivals,” Mehta told Outlook.
Rajat Sharma did not respond when Outlook sought his response to the complaints lodged against him.
Mehta said that 468 votes were cast on Wednesday. A total of 3,828 voters are eligible to vote. The polling will be held for four days, the first three days at the NDMC Building and at the DDCA headquarters at the Ferozeshah Kotla Stadium on the fourth day on Saturday. The results will be announced on July 2.
“I met Mr Rakesh Mehta and complained in writing about the irregularities on the first day of polling. Mr Rajat Sharma ran is continuing to use FM 107.2 for his campaigning today [Wednesday] and also by using his influence as the owner of a TV channel though the campaigning has ended on 26-6-2018. Mr Mehta said he would issue a show cause notice to Mr Sharma,” Vikas Singh told Outlook. “Today’s events will not make a difference because I am anyway winning. But this is a corrupt practice.”
In his written complaint, Vikas Singh also charged current BCCI acting president CK Khanna for “openly campaigning for his wife [Shashi] and her team members”. CK Khanna has been holding some or the other top post in the DDCA for well over 30 years and is known as a survivor.
Manjit Singh also alleged that the Rajat Sharma panel had booked a room next to the polling room on the first floor of the NDMC building and distributed customised diaries to some of the voters. “We came to know that they had booked a room adjacent to polling booth. They [voters] would go out of the polling booth and come up on the first floor again by elevators. They also distributed diaries to voters. I have emailed our complaint to the Returning Officer,”
Madan Lal told Outlook that he also met Mehta and orally complained to him about the irregularities that happened on Wednesday. He, however, there was no apprehension of elections being annulled due to Wednesday’s events.
Mehta said that he would make polling more organised on Thursday. “To prevent what happened on Wednesday, we are taking some action tomorrow. We will also ask all the people to wait on the ground floor and only voters will be allowed to go to the first to vote. Today, we used 10 voting machines but tomorrow we are doubling it to 20 machines. Due to the doubling of the machines more people will be able to cast their votes, maybe 800 to 850,” he said.
These are the first ever elections in DDCA’s 88-year history in which all members have to vote in person. Previously, they would vote through a proxy system. But after the DDCA amended its constitution to embrace the Lodha Committee recommendations on cricket reforms, the proxy system was junked. These are the first DDCA elections being held since 2013. In the interim three years, elections could not be held due to various controversies.