Faulty EVMs slow down polling in Meghalaya; One killed during voting day violence in Nagaland
Meghalaya and Nagaland have a 60-member House each, but voting was held for 59 constituencies in both.
Shillong/Kohima: Faults in EVMs and VVPATs in Meghalaya and violent clashes in Nagaland were reported amid an otherwise peaceful assembly election in both states on Tuesday. Until 5 pm, Meghalaya saw a turnout of 67 percent while 75 percent voters turned up in Nagaland.
Similar loopholes in voting process reported in Tripura Assembly polls on 18 February had led to repolls in one booth each in six constituencies of the state on 26 February.
Meghalaya and Nagaland have a 60-member House each, but voting was held for 59 constituencies in both. In Meghalaya, the election has been countermanded in Williamnagar in the wake of the killing of NCP candidate Jonathone N Sangma in East Garo Hills district on 18 February. In Nagaland, NDPP chief Neiphiu Rio has been declared elected unopposed from the Northern Angami-II constituency.
While Meghalaya had witnessed 86.82 percent turnout in the 2013 assembly polls, Nagaland had polled 90.19 percent in the last state elections.
The results of the polls in the two states, along with that of Tripura, will be declared on 3 March.
Only 28.5 percent voted in the first five hours in Meghalaya
Complaints of EVM and VVPAT malfunction poured in from all over Meghalaya. While some voters who had arrived early at 7 am were still waiting, others started to leave. An election official said that batteries went down in some of the new machines.
As of 1 pm, the polling percentage in Meghalaya stood at 28.5 percent. According to Meghalaya chief election officer (CEO) Fredrick R Kharkongor, a total of 106 companies of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF), along with the state armed personnel and police, were deployed across the state, especially in the troubled Garo Hills region.
Repolling was ordered at one polling station (Kyndon Tuber) in Raliang constituency in Meghalaya’s Jowai district due to “mix up of EVMs”, but the dates have not been announced.
Ampareen Lyngdoh, the Congress candidate from East Shillong constituency and cabinet minister in the Mukul Sangma-led government, felt the EVM malfunctions definitely slowed down the poll process in Meghalaya, which has traditionally witnessed high polling percentage.
“Most of the issues were really simple and they should have been sorted out. If you want to use this technology, you better be sure it is error-proof. A lot of time was wasted, and the people in my constituency were irritated. A lot of the staff were not adequately exposed to the process, I feel. We should really take care, because EVMs are supposed to speed up polling, not slow it down," Lyngdoh said.
Tuesday's polling will decide the fate of 361 candidates in Meghalaya, including 33 women and 80 Independents, election office sources said, adding that 18.09 lakh voters, of which 9.24 lakh are women, were eligible to exercise their franchise in 3,025 polling stations across the state. For the first time, 67 all-women polling stations and 61 model polling stations were set up in the state, the CEO said.
State DGP SB Singh said 580 polling stations were categorised as "vulnerable" and that strict security measures were in place across Meghalaya to ensure a free-and-fair election.
Meghalaya Pradesh Congress Committee working president James Lyngdoh said the Congress was happy with the way polling was conducted in the state.
One dead in fire exchange
According to Nagaland election commission, a crude bomb made of gelatine blew up at polling station 20 in Mon district’s Tizit constituency at 5.45 am on Tuesday. A civilian had sustained minor injuries. Stone pelting was also reported at polling station 21 in Tizit. The chief electoral officer said that some polling materials were damaged, but they were replaced in time and the polling continued.
Abhijit Sinha, CEO in the state, also informed that at 11.10am in Akuluto assembly constituency, "two groups from NPF and NDPP clashed, and the party people opened fire in which one person died and two got injured.” He said the incident did not disturb the polling process in the area."
Repolling will be held at the Ladigarh polling station in Tamlu constituency. The CEO informed that their team was unable to reach the designated polling station "due to obstruction by Assam Police". An "agitated mob" opposed the setting up of a makeshift polling booth at Yonglok or elsewhere, he said.
Sinha had earlier said that the issue has been cropping up since 2006. Polling was obstructed in Ladigarh during 2013 assembly polls and 2014 Lok Sabha elections too. The territory has been under dispute with Assam since the formation of Nagaland in 1963.
Meanwhile, NPF has lodged a complaint with the Election Commission alleging that the NDPP-BJP alliance in Nagaland had violated the model code of conduct by publishing full-page advertisements in daily newspapers on Monday.
Dominic Toppo, a 37-year-old voter from Kohima, hoped that the new government would provide better road connectivity and medical facilities. On the political instability that hit Nagaland during the last government’s term, he said, "That’s part of politics done by the leaders we elect. It’s on them." He, nevertheless, hoped the new government would be stable and give good governance.
Armstrong Chanambam is a Manipur-based freelance writer and Kyrmenlang Uriah is a Meghalaya-based freelance writer. Both are members of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters. With inputs from Syeda Ambia Zahan, a Guwahati-based journalist.
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