Lok Sabha polls phase 4: EVM glitches derail voting in UP, Odisha; intimidation, proxy voting reported from Rajasthan
Apart from the technical glitches in voting machines, there cases of blatant violation of Model Code of Conduct during the Lok Sabha election's fourth phase.
Incidents of EVM malfunctioning surfaced again and delayed the voting process by some hours in many Lok Sabha constituencies.
Blatant violation of Model Code of Conduct by party workers and candidates also disrupted the polling process in several states.
The EVM malfunctioning not only troubled voters in the morning, but also towards the end of the voting time.
As nine states went to polls in the fourth phase of the Lok Sabha elections on Monday, incidents of EVM malfunctioning surfaced again and delayed the voting process by some hours in many Lok Sabha constituencies. Apart from the technical glitches in voting machines, blatant violation of Model Code of Conduct by party workers and candidates also disrupted the polling process in several states.
EVM malfunction derails voting in states
In Uttar Pradesh, voting stopped for at least an hour due to EVM malfunctions at booth 374 in Rasoolabad of Kanpur Dehat. Similar incidents were reported from other areas as well. Senior Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Arvind Kumar Singh wrote a letter to the Election Commission apprising it about a defunct EVM at booth 175 in Kannauj.
As many as 127 complaints of faulty EVMs were registered in the earlier part of the day at the helpline started by Congress in Rajasthan, which kept increasing until voting came to a close. Voting was delayed by half an hour at booth number 98 in Jalore and by one hour at booth number 130 of Raniwada due to EVM malfunction.
The EVM malfunctioning not only troubled voters in the morning, but also towards the end of the voting time. In Pali Lok Sabha constituency’s booth number 156 in Vinayakpura, the EVM developed a technical snag which resulted in delay in polling. Even after a lot of struggle, election officials could not fix the problem and had to later change the machine.
In Swaroopganj’s booth number 112, voters complained of continuous beep sound from the EVM which led to a huge queue outside the polling station.
Polling was delayed in various booths in Odisha due to problems with EVMs. According to sources, polling was delayed at booth numbers 71, 183, 198 and 220 in Bhandaripokhari Assembly constituency, booth numbers 222, 244, 245, 54 and 243 under Dhamnagar Assembly segment, booth numbers 2, 46, 208 and 50 of Soro Assembly constituency, booth numbers 119, 109 and 110 of Simulia, booth numbers 69, 114 and 116 of Basudevpur, Chandbali, and booth numbers 216, 14 and 239 in the Bhadrak Lok Sabha seat due to EVM glitches.
Voting was delayed due to EVM glitches in Kakatpur, Nimapara, Paradip and Balikuda-Erasama Assembly segments under Jagatsinghpur Lok Sabha seat, Dharmasala and Bari under Jajpur Lok Sabha constituency, Kendrapara, Aul, Mahanga and Rajnagar under Kendrapara Lok Sabha constituency, while voters in Mayurbhanj Lok Sabha seat faced similar problems as EVM glitches were reported at several booths in Baripada, Bangiriposi, Badasahi, and Saraskana Assembly constituencies.
Inefficiency and intimidation
Complaints of booth capturing have also come out from Rajasthan’s Jhalrapatan, booth number 67 in Jodhpur Lok Sabha constituency, and booth number 224 of Barmer Lok Sabha constituency. Congress leaders filed complaints with the district Collectors.
A man broke the ballot unit at Harsani polling booth in Barmer Lok Sabha constituency as he was upset with the delay in polling. He said he had to wait for a long time in a queue because of an EVM malfunction. Officials replaced the unit, after which polling continued.
In Chittorgarh Lok Sabha constituency, two booth-level officers, Harish Rote and Mukesh Jain, have received notices for not making the necessary arrangements at booth numbers 79 and 80. Arrangements for drinking water were immediately made after instructions were received from district election officer Shyam Singh Rajpurohit.
In West Bengal, Babul Supriyo who is BJP’s candidate from Asansol LS constituency, alleged mass booth rigging in Jamuria Assembly booth numbers 171, 199, 223, 224. Many women in Asansol's Barabani alleged that they were not allowed to cast their vote despite having entered the polling booth.
In Ranaghat Lok Sabha constituency, rigging was alleged at Ranaghat Uttar Purab Assembly segment (89)'s booth numbers 47 and 49. In Chakdaha Assembly segment (91) in the same constituency, TMC goons did not allow people to vote in ward number 2 and 9. Meanwhile, a bomb was found in Dakghar Radha Rani School polling station in Santipur.
The Rampurhat Dakhalbari booth which is a part of the Birbhum Lok Sabha constituency, was allegedly captured by TMC goons. No one was allowed to enter for two hours as TMC men remained inside the booth. Locals and a BJP polling agent reached out to the police. However, inspector in-charge Abu Salem of Rampurhat police station only came after TMC men had left the booth.
In Jharkhand, around 50 names were found missing from voters' list at the Girls Middle School in Sisai, part of Lohardaga Lok Sabha constituency. Iltap Hussain and Majeed Khan are among the two in the list who had voted earlier, but find their names missing in this year’s lists.
Income Tax officials in the state raided the AK International Hotel in the presence of DDC Vijay Jadhav and SDO Megha Bharadwaj at 3 am this morning and seized 16 lakh from the room of Gopal Sahu, who is the Congress candidate from Hazaribagh. Hazaribagh goes for polling in the fifth phase of the election on 6 May.
The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) wrote to Chief Electoral Officer Odisha over alleged "booth capturing by BJP". The letter stated, "BJP goons conducted booth capturing in 12 booths of Bari Assembly constituency under Jajpur parliamentary constituency while the polling was going on today."
The rule breakers
In an incident of election officials allegedly influencing voters in Jajpur LS segment of Odisha, the district Collector has suspended three polling officials.
Dhirendra Tripathy, Baikuntha Mallick and Janardan Prusty have been suspended for attempting to affect voter decision in the ongoing elections, which was recorded on CCTV.
“The three above personnel were seen moving to polling compartment, which is against the norms. Excluding the voter, no one can go to the polling compartment,” the CEO said.
While Prusty is the fourth polling officer of booth number 196 in Sukinda, Tripathy and Mallick are presiding officers of booth numbers 135 and 191 in Binjharpur, said Kumar, adding that disciplinary action will be taken against these officials.
Villagers in Rajasthan's Sirohi allege the Booth Level Officer (BLO) was asking voters to vote for a specific party at booth number 113 in Swaroopganj in Jalore Lok Sabha constituency. Tehsildar Brijesh Gupta and the police reached the spot and the BLO was immediately changed.
A woman in the Dateli village of Lakhimpur in the Kheri Lok Sabha constituency in the state alleged that the returning officer had asked her to press the button of BJP's symbol. The returning officer, Pradeep Kumar, was suspended immediately.
A vehicle with the Congress candidate for Jodhpur, Vaibhav Gehlot, entered a polling booth in Jodhpur. BJP candidate Gajendra Singh Shekhawat expressed objection over the car with posters of Vaibhav Gehlot. This incident took place at Bhagwasiya School Booth.
In West Bengal, the EC ordered the police to register FIRs against BJP candidates Dudh Kumar Mondal and Kalyan Chaubey for speaking on the phone inside polling booths. Mondal and Chaubey are fighting from Birbhum and Krishnanagar Lok Sabha constituencies respectively. The two leaders have also been accused of rigging votes.The EC has issued a show-cause notice to Mondal in this regard.
Baharampur sitting MP and Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury reportedly caught an outsider inside the polling booth no. 122. As soon as he spotted the man, the man was gheraoed by Congress supporters and a clash broke out. No police or central force personnel were present at the booth.
Proxy voting, dime a dozen
Chohtan police in Barmer Lok Sabha constituency in Rajasthan has lodged a case against 10 people who tried to cast fake votes. Circle officer Ajeet Singh confirmed the report. Police said that polling agent Mula Ram had lodged a case against 10 people who forced him to allow fake voting at Sherpura polling station under Chohtan police station area in Barmer. He alleged that when he protested against the fake voting, the accused beat him up. On basis of the complaint, police have lodged the case under Sections 143, 341, 323, 452, 365 and 511 of the IPC.
Trinamool Congress’ polling agents were caught casting votes and influencing voters inside a booth at Khanji QA Azim High School under the Ketugram Police Station of Bardhaman Purba constituency. Central forces were deployed but despite their deployment, the workers were caught casting proxy votes.
A TMC polling agent, Subodh Ruidas, was seen voting for women voters at booth number 136 in Natundanga High School, part of Bardhaman–Durgapur Lok Sabha constituency.
Speaking to reporters at the Kolkata airport, Special Observer from the EC, Ajay Nayak, said that if a re-election is needed, it will be “considered”. On being asked about the incidents of violence and firing, he said he is “looking into the matter”.
With inputs from Bibhuti Mohapatra, A Ghose, Mukesh Mathrani and Rajendra Sharma
(The author is Bengaluru-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com)
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