Jaipur: Complaints about faulty Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) were reported from across Rajasthan as India's largest state went to polls on Friday to elect its Assembly.
Voting was conducted for 199 out of 200 seats. Polling in Ramgarh constituency in Alwar district had to be postponed owing to the passing away of BSP candidate Lakshman Singh.
The Election Commission (EC) reported a voter turnout of 72.7 percent (until 5 pm). The state has 4,74,79,402 registered voters.
In a repeat of glitches reported in the recently held Assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram, faulty EVMs were reported across districts like Chittorgarh, Pushkar, Bengu, Bikaner, Jodhpur, and Sawai Madhopur, among others. The voting process was delayed as voters waited in line for hours till the EVMs were repaired or replaced.
Bikaner MP Arjun Ram Meghwal was one of many waiting in line, with his wife, at booth 172 in Bikaner East. The EVM stopped functioning just 15 minutes after voting began. “It was just a technical glitch which was solved. Any machine can experience a technical glitch. All other facilities were in place. VVPAT is a new concept. Some places have more than 15 candidates, so it has two machines. I did not have any issues standing for two hours,” the BJP MP said.
Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee is reported to have received 460 complaints related to issues regarding polling procedure, based on which, the committee has written a letter to the Election Commission. “Out of the 460 complaints, 400 were related to faulty EVMs. As many as 160 places lodged complaints regarding threats from BJP, booth capturing, and violence,” the committee said.
“It takes 42 seconds for a voter to cast their vote using VVPAT. One booth has 1,400 registered voters. People were standing for hours, but still couldn’t cast votes. There were no facilities for drinking water. Most EVMs were not working for at least two hours in the morning, which delayed the entire procedure. The operator did not know how to run the machine,” said Pratap Singh Khachariyawas, district committee president, Jaipur Congress.
The major issues on the basis of which voters cast their ballots included lack of electricity and roads, unemployment, caste and communal violence, fully-functioning government colleges, farmers’ issues like crop prices, loan waivers, etc.
Muslim women in Baseri, Dholpur, narrated problems of unemployment faced by the youth, stating that there are no jobs and that they would like proper development from the future government.
Demanding justice, residents of Jasana village in Nohar constituency boycotted the elections. They have accused the government of inaction regarding the murder of Dalit youth Pawan Kumar, who was killed when police opened fire on protesters during the Bharat Bandh held in April. Voters in Wier assembly seat in Bharatpur district have also boycotted elections due to lack of basic facilities like water, electricity, and proper construction of roads.
In a strange incident, the Chopra school booth in Bikaner East experienced a boycott, where voters returned without casting their vote, citing that a police official was under the influence of alcohol and behaved inappropriately with them.
Stray incidents of violence and unrelated deaths were reported across the state during voting day.
A car was set on fire during a fight between two groups in Jagaasar village in Kolayat, Bikaner, and a tussle was also reported between Congress and BJP supporters in Sikar, where a few members of both parties sustained injuries. Moreover, BJP workers reportedly attacked former All India Kisan Sabha president Amra Ram's driver, outside a polling booth in Jalore district. In all situations, security forces arrived immediately.
70-year-old Geeta Devi passed away right after voting at booth 180, in Bhilawara. She was taken to the hospital after her health started deteriorating while waiting in line. Similarly, Aidaan Chaudhary, a teacher in Tejpura village, Bikaner, suffered a heart attack while in queue to cast his vote, and passed away.
Voters across all age groups filed into voting booths through the day. First-time voters as young as 18 and elderly individuals above the age of 100 were all seen exercising their franchise across the state.
Some of the important candidates for Rajasthan’s state Assembly election include incumbent Vasundhara Raje, BJP’s face for chief minister, who is contesting from Jhalrapatan seat in Jhalawar. Her competition is Manvendra Singh, another Rajput and son of former cabinet minister Jaswant Singh, who was a key player in BJP, and recently joined Congress.
Ashok Gehlot, former chief minister of Rajasthan, is one of Congress’ contenders for the top seat, and is fighting from Sardarpura seat. Another prominent contender is Sachin Pilot, president of Rajasthan Congress, who is fighting from Tonk against BJP’s sole Muslim candidate, Yoonus Khan.
Outside of the BJP and Congress camps, Amra Ram, a farmer leader from CPM has also gained popularity among certain regions of the state and is fighting from Danta Ramgarh constituency. Other rebel leaders include Ghanshyam Tiwari and Hanuman Beniwal who have formed separate parties — Bharat Vahini and Rashtriya Loktantrik Party, respectively — against BJP, and are counting on caste-based vote banks of Brahmins and Jats.
By the end of the day, people who had been waiting in queues for several hours due to faulty EVMs, in regions like Bikaner, Sardarpura and Jodhpur, demanded an extension in voting time.
With inputs from Madhav, Sangeeta Sharma, Ram Gopal Jat and Rajendra Sharma
(Rangoli Agrawal is a Jaipur-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com
Updated Date: Dec 07, 2018 21:30 PM