Nearly 74.61 percent of voters exercised their franchise till 6 pm Wednesday in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections which were marred by complaints of faulty Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and stray incidents of violence.
According to latest updates, 745 EVMs and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines were replaced after complaints of technical snags, Madhya Pradesh's Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) VL Kantha Rao said. The number may go up as reports of technical glitches have continued to pour in.
This may result in repolling at several booths following complaints of malfunctioning of EVMs, as senior Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia demanded the Election Commission make up for the time wasted in replacing faulty EVMs by extending the polling time in concerned booths.
"I want the EC to compensate for the time lost in replacing the EVMs. It should extend voting time at places where EVMs failed to work," Scindia told reporters after landing in Gwalior to cast his vote.
"I have already spoken to Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat and Madhya Pradesh chief electoral officer VL Kantha Rao over the phone," the Lok Sabha member from the state's Guna seat said. Scindia said he wanted maximum people to cast their vote.
The poll panel said it may reconsider conducting a re-poll if the officers report that people were unable to cast vote due to technical glitches. "Our polling agents have been constantly observing and interacting with voters to record all grievances and the rate at which EVMs are malfunctioning is alarming,” Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat said. On the extension of poll time, Rawat said, "There are provisions for extension of time. Local officials can take a call as they see fit. The matter does not need to be handled by the election commission."
State Congress chief Kamal Nath also expressed concern over complaints of technical snags in EVMs. "Several reports are coming from across the state that EVMs are not working. This has been affecting the polling. Long queues are being witnessed in the city. EC should immediately take decision. The EVMs should be changed," he said in a tweet.
Polling was held from 8 am to 5 pm in 227 seats, while in three Assembly segments of Lanji, Paraswada and Baihar in the Naxal-affected Balaghat district, the voting hours were from 7 am to 3 pm. Two polling officials died due to health issues while performing their duties in Indore and Guna districts, Rao said. The families of these employees would be given an ex-gratia of Rs 10 lakh each, he said.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the Bharatiya Janata Party's candidate from Budhni seat, and his wife Sadhana Singh cast their votes at his native village Jait, which is part of his Assembly constituency. Earlier, Chouhan also offered prayers at a local temple. The Congress fielded former Union minister Arun Yadav against Chouhan. Kamal Nath cast his vote in Chhindwara district while the party's campaign committee chief Scindia exercised his franchise in Gwalior.
Rao said polling was going on peacefully in all the Assembly constituencies and long queues were seen in the Naxal-affected seats and other places. However, some disturbance was reported from Bhind and Morena districts. Reports said three people were arrested after gunshots were fired outside a polling both in Bhind. Meanwhile, reports said around 10 candidates from five seats in the sensitive Bhind district were detained in view of maintaining law and order.
The police earlier detained BJP and Congress candidates from Ater in Bhind, Arvind Singh Bhadauriya (BJP) and Hemant Katare (Congress), to prevent any kind of untoward situation. They have been kept at the circuit house. The district is located in the Gwalior-Chambal region. The region is expected to witness tense contest between BJP and Congress. The region has 34 seats.
Meanwhile, in Morena, a Congress polling agent was shot and rushed to a hospital in Gwalior in a critical state. In Bhopal North, BJP-Congress workers clashed in Kotwali area following reports that Rs 10 lakh cash was recovered from a BJP minister's car. However no action was taken against Devraj Singh Parihar, a senior BJP leader and a state minister, after initial inquiry.
As many as 2,899 candidates, including 1,094 Independents, are in the fray for the 230 seats, but the main contest is between the Congress and BJP – the big two of Madhya Pradesh politics. The state has 5.04 crore eligible voters. Over three lakh government employees, including nearly 45,000 women, are on poll duty. As many as 1.80 lakh security personnel, including those drawn from central paramilitary forces, have also been deployed to ensure free and fair poll, Rao said.
With inputs from PTI and Team 101 Reporters
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Updated Date: Nov 28, 2018 18:53:17 IST