MCD Election 2017: Voting ends with around 54% turnout as faulty EVMs, heat keep voters away
Voting in the MCD Election 2017 was peaceful but both voters and political parties reported numerous cases of faulty EVMs and state election commission's apathy towards resolving the issues
Around 54 percent men and women in the national capital on Sunday voted amid EVM glitches to pick three new municipal bodies in an election crucial for all three main contenders — the BJP, Congress and the AAP.
Following a sluggish start at 8 am, voting gradually picked up and became fairly brisk as the heat waned towards the afternoon. The 2012 MCD polls had registered a 53.23 percent turnout. Around 1.32 crore electorate were eligible to exercise their franchise in the municipal election.
According to IANS, residents reported "low" voting in many areas but in many others there were long queues of men and women keen to pick three wings of a municipal corporation that covers almost the whole of Delhi.
State Election Commissioner S K Srivastava told a press conference that North corporation's Bakhtawarpur ward recorded the highest turnout at over 68 percent, while south Delhi's Lado Sarai registered the least turnout at 39 percent.
The balloting was peaceful but both voters and political parties reported numerous cases of malfunctioning of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), which themselves have come under a cloud.
"The turnout by 4 pm was around 45 percent and we are very hopeful that the final tally will be beyond 54 percent, the voting percentage in the 2012 civic body polls in Delhi," State Election Commissioner SK Srivastava told PTI.
"Around 22.2 lakh people have cast their vote in areas under the North Delhi Municipal Corporation," the SEC said.
The Aam Aadmi Party, which rules Delhi, and the Congress want to end the 10-year reign of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the civic body, citing poor upkeep of the city's cleanliness.
The BJP used Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appeal to reclaim the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (104 seats), South Delhi Municipal Corporation (104 seats) and East Delhi Municipal Corporation (64 seats).
Polling did not take place in two wards — Maujpur in East Delhi and Sarai Pipal Thala in North Delhi — where a candidate each of the Samajwadi Party died.
Even as the polling was on, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said reports of EVM malfunctioning came from all over the capital. He also tweeted that many people with voter slips were not allowed to vote.
BJP leader Arvinder Singh Lovely, who recently quit the Congress, could not vote because the EVM in his polling station — there were 13,022 in all — broke down.
By 3 pm, the AAP "War Room" reported 250 calls from voters complaining about non-functional EVMs. The complaints came from several areas including Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia's constituency Patparganj.
According to an ANI video, some voters also complained of the SEC officials apathy, who allegedly went on to suggesting voters that they press any buttons when faced with faulty EVMs.
Firstpost, however, couldn't independently verify the authenticity of the claims.
A Maharashtra Congress leader, Shehzad Poonawala, tweeted about the EVMs in Delhi: "Better we call them (E)xtremely (V)ulnerable (M)achines."
However, Srivastava told PTI that 18 electronic voting machines (EVMs) were replaced owing to battery or button related issues.
"Out of 13,000 polling stations, EVMs were changed in only 18 polling stations. It shows our EVMs are unhackable, robust and no wrong can be done," Srivastava said.
A total of 2,537 candidates were in the fray.
Among others who contested the election are the Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal-United and Swaraj India of Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan who were earlier Kejriwal's colleagues in the AAP.
The three civic bodies cover 68 of the 70 assembly constituencies in Delhi. The two smaller civic bodies are the Delhi Cantonment Board as well as the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC).
Lt Governor Anil Baijal, Kejriwal, Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken and Delhi BJP leaders were among the early voters.
"I urge the people of Delhi to vote for a filth-free Delhi, a dengue- and chikungunya-free Delhi," said Kejriwal after voting along with his family.
Asked if the election was a referendum on his government's two-year performance, he replied: "We will see when the results come (on Wednesday)."
Maken rooted for the Congress.
"The BJP has done enough damage for 10 years. The only thing it has done is engaging in verbal duels with the AAP. People want sensible governance. Going by Congress' track record, they will vote for us," he said.
BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi blamed the Kejriwal government for the capital mess and said she was confident her party would again control the civic body.
Some voters complained of poor organisation.
"Voter slips have not been given to many. This has created a lot of confusion. My wife and I didn't get any voter slips," Amit Basu, a voter from Chittaranjan Park in south Delhi, told IANS.
— With agency inputs
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The Congress leader also exhorted all political leaders 'to think deeply about the consequences of holding large public rallies under the current circumstances'