A few hours after polls opened in Uttar Pradesh's politically-crucial Kairana and Noorpur assemblies, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came under heavy fire from the Opposition after reports of malfunctioning Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines came to light.
Reports of malfunctioning EVMs poured in from across the 10 Assembly segments and four Lok Sabha constituencies that witnessed polling on Monday, but Uttar Pradesh remained the political hot spot where a strong Opposition took on BJP at Kairana where it hoped to repeat the historic victory in Gorakhpur and Phulpur bypolls in March.
Former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav took to Twitter and said that despite malfunctioning EVMs being reported from different booths of the two Uttar Pradesh constituencies, people should vote. “Despite this, everyone should go exercise their franchise,” Yadav wrote.
Samajwadi Party state president Naresh Uttam Patel wrote to the Election Commission (EC) and complained about the reported snags in EVMs which disrupted voting. “It seems that the BJP-led state government is trying to dislodge a strong Opposition by planting EVMs that are not working properly. EVMs in at least 113 booths in Noorpur constituency developed snags in the morning,” the letter stated.
VVPAT machines stopped working at the Hindu Kanya School polling booth in Shamli, Kairana. Uttar Pradesh's Kairana came into the spotlight in 2016 after it was reported that the area saw an exodus of Hindus. With three EVMs regularly breaking down at booth 42 at VV Inter College, Sadar Kotwali, Shamli, some voters left without exercising their franchise. The faulty EVMs were later replaced by the Election Commission and voting resumed.
Tabassum Hasan, Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) candidate from Kairana, told media that the EVMs have been tampered with, especially in Muslim and Dalit dominated areas, where BJP knows there is no hope of victory. Malfunctioning EVMs in Noorpur constituency caused polling to be disrupted in more than 211 booths and the district administration attempted to replace the machines.
The BJP rubbished any allegations of tampering and claimed the Opposition was frustrated as it was facing certain defeat at the polls. “Whenever the Opposition knows it will lose, it starts a false bogey of tampering in EVMs. The BJP has already requested the EC to take corrective measures and hold repolling wherever necessary,” said Harish Chandra Srivastava, Uttar Pradesh media in-charge of BJP.
Meanwhile, Chief Election Commissioner of India OP Rawat said an assessment would be carried out after polling. “Polls are being conducted as per standard operating procedure (SOP). Repolling would be decided only after consulting election officers who will analyse the ground situation,” said Rawat.
Reports of faulty EVMs also emerged from Maheshtala in West Bengal. Voters at a college informed authorities of the snag. The EC later stated that all faulty EVMs were replaced and voting was going smoothly. However, despite assurances from the EC, voters from Maheshtala College told the authorities that machines were taking time to register votes.
At Shahkot Assembly bypoll in Punjab, one control unit at booth 216 and three VVPAT machines at booths 169, 170 and 222 were replaced during mock poll due to technical snag. Four VVPAT machines at booths 27, 28, 132 and 45 were replaced during polling.
Eleven faulty EVMs were reported across booths in Gondiya-Bhandara Lok Sabha constituency in Maharashtra. In Jharkhand’s Gomia Assembly constituency, voting was delayed at booths 47, 74 and 165 due to technical difficulties in EVMs. Commenting on malfunctioning EVMs in Kairana and Noorpur, former Samajwadi Party minister Rajendra Chaudhary stated that the Uttar Pradesh government's intentions are dubious.
Since the day BJP was defeated in Gorakhpur and Phulpur, its leaders are frustrated, Chaudhary added. Such a dangerous election is being held for the first time in Uttar Pradesh where government machinery is being misused, he further stated.
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Updated Date: May 28, 2018 14:56:14 IST