Uncounted ballots go missing in Perinthalmanna ahead of HC hearing, recovered from another office

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Perinthalmanna: In a dramatic incident on Monday, one of the three ballot boxes containing uncounted postal votes in the 2021 Kerala Assembly elections from the Perinthalmanna constituency went missing. It was recovered within hours from another government office.

The Kerala High Court had directed officials concerned to produce the ballot boxes in the plea of KPM Mustafa, LDF independent candidate in the poll, questioning the victory of UDF candidate Najeeb Kanthapuram. It may be noted that Najeeb secured the win by a narrow margin of 38 votes.

As many as 348 postal votes were marked invalid during counting by officials. According to Mustafa, officials did not count the said postal votes citing a lack of serial numbers, and signatures of polling officers. These were votes cast by people aged above 80 and differently abled using the opportunity set up in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Though the counting agent of Mustafa challenged the decision, the deputy collector, who was in-charge of the counting, declined it.

The ballots, in three boxes, were moved to the Perinthalmanna treasury office after counting on the plea of Mustafa. The room containing the boxes was opened on Monday to take them to court. Then, they noticed one of the three boxes was missing.

Mustafa immediately approached the court and filed a complaint regarding the missing box.

Meanwhile, the box was recovered from the office of the District Joint Registrar of Cooperative Societies.

It is unclear at this moment how one of the boxes got separated. Najeeb told Mathrubhumi News that he suspects conspiracy. The MLA has called for a detailed probe into the matter. Mustafa has also demanded a probe while alleging laxity of the officials.

The ballot, if counted under the supervision of the court, could change the result of the election. LDF, with 99 MLAs in the Assembly, is looking to cross the magic number, 100 with the election of Mustafa. It will also be a crucial political win for LDF and CPM in the Muslim League bastion.

The high court will consider the case on Tuesday.

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