The three-phase local body election in Uttar Pradesh kicked off on Wednesday, with voters casting votes in 24 districts of the state in the first leg of elections. The exercise, being deemed a litmus test for the ruling BJP, comes merely eight months after the saffron party swept the Assembly polls. Polling for the first phase concluded at 5 pm.
In 2012, the BJP swept these polls, winning 10 of the 12 mayoral posts. While it would be interesting to see whether anti-incumbency has crept in against the BJP since the time, the polls would also be a dipstick to gauge public sentiment for the Congress, Samajwadi Party, and Bahujan Samaj Party after they suffered a route in Assembly polls.
The districts going to polls in the first phase are Shamli, Meerut, Hapur, Bijnore, Badaun, Hathras, Kasganj, Agra, Kanpur, Jalaun, Hamirpur, Chitrakoot, Kaushambi, Pratapgarh, Unnao, Hardoi, Amethi, Faizabad, Gonda, Basti, Gorakhpur, Azamgarh, Ghazipur and Sonebhadra.
Here are the highlights till 5 pm:
The voter turnout saw a rise by six percentage points from 2012 as the state Election department said that 52.81 percent of the 1.09 crore voters exercised their franchise at the end of polling for the first phase on Wednesday.
Forty five percent polling was recorded in Hathras till 2.15 pm. Kanpur recorded till 1:00pm recorded at 31 percent. Around 23 percent voting recorded till 1 pm in Gorakhpur. Pratapgarh and Kaushambi recorded at 20.8 percent and 32 percent till 12 noon.
The overall voter turnout in Meerut was 16 percent till 12 pm, according to Additional State Election Commissioner. However, a compiled report on overall voting percentage is still awaited as polling at several booths is still on.
Technical glitches, EVM malfunction
Reports of technical glitches, 'rigged' EVMs and claims of bogus voting overshadowed the elections. According to ANI, there were glitches in the EVMs of three booths in Kanpur's Mani Ram Bagia ward number 104. However, the voting there resumed after some time.
101Reporters also said that there was a delay in polling in booth number 606 in Agra due to malfunction in the EVM, angering many voters.
It was also reported that some candidates and agents entered the booth with their mobile phones in Kheragarh and Jagner, following which the mobile phones were seized by the authorities. Because of cancellation of names in some of the new lists, some voters got angry.
The EVM at Section 562 in ward number 55 at south DUJ Inter college in Gorakhpur had not been working for around one-and-a-half-hours. Long queues formed there because till 10.10 am, not a single vote was cast.
Three people were also detained in Meerut for trying to forcibly enter the polling booth whereas five women were detained in Gorakhpur, who were allegedly paid for casting bogus votes.
Ruckus in Meerut
There was ruckus at ward number 89 in Meerut after voters alleged that EVMs were casting votes only for BJP, irrespective of which button was pressed. However, additional State Election Commissioner Ved Prakash Verma told Firstpost the allegations were false.
Police had to resort to lathicharge as result of chaos at ward number 81 of Summer Garden when a BJP MP tried to cut the queue and BSP leader Yogesh Varma objected.
Moreover, in a seperate incident, police thrashed a man at Lavar chowk area after they arrested his son for allegedly trying to cast bogus vote. Following this, the locals protested in the area, alleging that police was acting under pressure from the local MLA.
The mystery of missing names
According to 101 Reporters, Meerut residents also complained that names of dead people figured on the voter list, while many real voters found there names missing.
In Unnao, BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj was also left fuming after he could not caste his vote because his name was missing from the voters list for the local body elections.
The MP, who had to return from Gadankheda polling booth this morning without casting his vote, alleged that it was a conspiracy and demanded stern action against erring officials after which the district administration ordered an inquiry.
"The district magistrate (DM) is new but the additional district magistrate (ADM), who is also looking after the election process, was posted under the previous government... it is not a mere laspe that the name of the MP is missing... omission of an MP's name indicates some conspiracy," Sakshi Mahraj told reporters.
Former Congress MP Annu Tandon also could not vote as her name was missing from the voters list following which she lodged a complaint with the district administration of Unnao.
Samajwadi Party's Rajya Sabha member Sukhram Singh Yadav was also unable to cast his vote as his name was missing from the voters’ list
Candidates showering voters with gifts
A survey conducted by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) said that candidates in the Uttar Pradesh civic polls are gifting voters footballs and brass utensils, among other things.
The Indian Express reported that some mayoral candidates in Jhansi were found gifting voters through online portals.
The survey also said that out of 195 candidates, 20 had criminal cases against them.
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: Nov 22, 2017 20:46 PM