Bhubaneshwar: The second phase of polling in Odisha did not turn out to be as smooth as as the first phase, thanks to snags in EVMs and VVPAT machines at many places. Saying that the snags were due to a "man-made fault", the Election Commission suspended voting in six polling booths.
Hours before the commencement of the second phase of polls in the state, Maoists gunned down a woman polling officer and torched a poll vehicle on Wednesday. Both the incidents occurred in Kandhamal district, where Maoists had called for a poll boycott.
In the attack, sector officer Sanjukta Digal was shot dead when she got down from the vehicle to check a suspicious object lying on the road while passing through a jungle near Balandapada village under Gochhapada police station limits. Other four polling personnel present in the vehicle were unhurt.
In another incident, Maoists set ablaze a vehicle carrying polling personnel to a booth in a village in the remote Phiringia police station area.
The second phase of the polling took place in five Lok Sabha constituencies (Bargarh, Sundergarh, Bolangir, Kandhamal and Aska) and 35 Assembly constituencies.
Briefing mediapersons, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Odisha Surendra Kumar said voting started in most of the booths at 7 am. However, polling was delayed in some booths due to problems in installation of the machines. Till 5 pm, 64 percent polling was recorded, he said.
Repolling in six booths
The Election Commission adjourned polling in six booths. Those are — polling station no. 129 of Bonai Assembly constituency and booth no. 213 of Sundergarh Assembly segment (both are part of Sundergarh Lok Sabha segment) and booth no. 210 and 222 of Daspalla Assembly segment in Kandhamal parliamentary constituency, Kumar informed.
Giving the example of booth no. 129 in Bonai, he said, “In the morning, the polling was going on smoothly. Later, one of the voters noticed that his vote was not being cast correctly, following which he complained to the presiding officer. He was accompanied by the polling agents to re-cast his vote when the officials noticed the problem,” he added.
Later, a similar problem was reported at polling station 235 of Atabira and 68 of Bargarh Assembly segments under Barharh Lok Sabha constituency.
“Soon after that, polling was suspended and we have recommended for fresh polls in the four polling stations,” the CEO said.
The CEO has clarified that polling has been countermanded due to human glitches, not technical snags developed in the EVM or VVPAT.
“The anomaly in polling process has developed due to cross-bearing of EVMs and VVPATs. Though the polling officials have been given adequate training, replacement of voting machines was done in a faulty manner and the EC will initiate action against errant officials for dereliction of duty,” he pointed out.
Faulty EVMs, a headache for voters
Voting was also delayed in other areas due to such problems. In Sundergarh constituency, glitches in EVMs were reported from five other booths in Bonai. Malfunctioning in EVMs occurred in Talsara as well. Union minister Jual Oram was seen waiting to cast his vote at booth in Kendudihi, as polling was delayed.
According to sources, EVM malfunctioning was also reported from booths in Loisinga, Kurei, Turekela and Aaglpur in Bolangir while voters in booths 198, 199 and 200 of Titlagarh faced similar problems. Polling was also delayed in booth nos. 204 and 205 in Sagarpalli due to glitches in EVM.
Voters had a hard time in Kandhamal as well. Technical problems occurred in booths 113 and 101 in Phulbani, booth 179 in G Udayagiri, booth 54 in Mahasingh area of Baliguda and some booths of Tumudibandha.
In Bargarh’s Sohela area, voting was delayed as booth 166 of Chouhanpali reported the same issue.
In Buguda area under Aska Lok Sabha seat, EVMs failed in two booths of Motabadi village. Booth 196 of Hinjili also reported similar problems, the sources said.
The voters were disappointed and had to return without casting their votes after a long period of waiting.
“I was standing in queue for several hours to exercise my franchise. However, I have come to know that polling has been suspended now. Why wasn't there proper management to resolve such problems,” said Subash, a voter at booth no. 129 of Bonai in Sundergarh.
In an untoward incident in the morning, a 95-year-old man collapsed and died while he was waiting in a long queue to cast his vote in the Aska Lok Sabha constituency. A native of Kansamari, Natabara Behera died at the polling station no. 183 of Sanakhemundi before casting his vote.
Meanwhile, BJP candidate from Sorada Assembly constituency, Nilamani Bisoi, was detained by the police for allegedly breaking an EVM at polling booth no. 182 in Renti village under his Assembly constituency. “An FIR will be lodged in this case,” said Ganjam SP Brijesh Kumar Rai.
Tough time for Naveen
The three major political parties in the state — Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Bharatiya Janata Patry (BJP) and Congress have tried their best woo the voters so that they can strengthen their base in the western parts of the Odisha.
Out of five Lok Sabha seats and 35 Assembly seats that went for polls, BJD has four MPs and 24 MLAs, while BJP has the lone Sundergarh Lok Sabha seat and four MLAs. The Congress is the ruling party in five Assembly constituencies, while the CPM and an Independent have one seat each.
Amid the rising popularity of the BJP after the Balakot strike, BJD supremo and chief minister Naveen Patnaik, for the first time, is contesting from Bijepur in addition to his home turf Hinjili in Ganjam district. Both the segments went for polls on Thursday.
After getting a good response from voters in the last rural polls in western Odisha, the BJP did not leave any stone unturned to build on its small victory. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah had held several rallies in the area, and Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Odisha BJP in-charge Arun Singh also campaigned in several constituencies.
The Congress has also tried its level best to retain its base in the region, where it had a very strong hold earlier. The grand old party is contesting the Aska Lok Sabha seat in alliance with the CPI, as part of a seat-sharing adjustment.
(The author is a Bhubaneswar - based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com)
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Updated Date: Apr 18, 2019 22:50:34 IST