Gorakhpur District Magistrate Rajeev Rautela came under immense criticism as he was caught red-handed trying to what appeared to subvert the electoral process in the home town of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Tuesday.
To the utter surprise of local media personnel, Rautela walked into the counting centre and stopped the officials from giving them updates on the counting. He then forced the accredited journalists out of the counting centre before freezing the announcement of poll counting for nearly three hours. There were reports of even the observers being forced to leave the counting venue.
Both his steps were extraordinary and raised a lot of suspicions. This explained why for nearly three hours, there was no update from Gorakhpur even though the counting of votes using EVMs is an incredibly fast moving process.
It was around 11 AM, when Janta Ka Reporter’s editor-in-chief, Rifat Jawaid, who was on ABP News to analyse the election results, expressed his reservations to the channel’s anchor, Abhisar Sharma. He said that it was extraordinary to not have any updates from Gorakhpur for nearly three hours even though the counting was being carried out using EVMs.
Rifat later said, “I was in touch with my sources in Gorakhpur. They told me that at least 13 rounds of counting have taken place but the DM had ordered the officials not to make any announcement to media. This raised my suspicion. Why would you not want to reveal the numbers if they are in your favour? I knew everything was not well with Yogi.”
The discussion on ABP News acted as a catalyst in spreading the news like a jungle fire with every other media outlet picking up this issue with lightening speed. Soon, Samajwadi Party leaders too began to voice their anger and the matter became a topic of heated discussion inside the UP assembly, which was in session. The ruckus inside the assembly led to adjournment of the session for the remainder of the day.
One SP leader told Janta Ka Reporter that former UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav had even threatened to travel to Gorakhpur in a chartered plane. Within minutes, DM Rautela was forced to eat humble pie and the announcement on counting soon resumed. The first announcement showed that the BJP was astonishingly trailing by 24 votes in Yogi’s own bastion. The margin kept increasing in the subsequent announcements. In the end, Yogi’s fortress had collapsed.
The controversy, however, raised several questions on Rautela’s questionable conduct and vulnerability of EVMs. Many wondered if the DM was on his way to tinker with those EVMs that had already sealed his master’s fate.
The Election Commission has, meanwhile, asked for an explanation from Rautela for his incredibly controversial order banning media and observers from entering the counting centres.
Rautela is not new to controversy. Adityanath was accused of shielding him in the children’s deaths case at BRD Medical College Hospital in August last year. More than 500 children had died due to lack of Oxygen supply in just few months. The government had framed charges against the former principal of the college, Dr Rajeev Mishra, his wife and Dr Kafeel Khan to jail. Rautela was spared along with other officials, believed to be close to the UP CM.
In December, the Allahabad High Court had ordered Rautela’s suspension over an illegal mining.
Rautela’s dubious act also evoked angry reactions from journalists. Rajdeep Sardesai wrote, “Shameful behaviour by Gorakhpur DM: not allowing the counting details to be put out in public domain, blocking media out. Sir, you are a public servant not a rep of a political party for god sake!”
Shameful behaviour by Gorakhpur DM: not allowing the counting details to be put out in public domain, blocking media out. Sir, you are a public servant not a rep of a political party for god sake! #UPByPolls
— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) March 14, 2018
Nidhi Razdan’s tweet said, “Now we know why the DM of Gorakhpur kept the media out of the counting centre. Shame on him for playing partisan politics as a senior bureaucrat.”
Now we know why the DM of Gorakhpur kept the media out of the counting centre. Shame on him for playing partisan politics as a senior bureaucrat
— Nidhi Razdan (@Nidhi) March 14, 2018
A lot will depend on what action does the EC take against the DM, who was clearly found flouting the norms allegedly to help his boss Adityanath.