Voting in the Palghar and Bhandara-Gondia Lok Sabha bypolls in Maharashtra on Monday was partially disrupted after a number of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) electronic voting machines (EVMs) malfunctioned during polling.
Election Commission (EC) officer in Bhandara-Gondiya, Anant Walaskar told reporters that EVM-VVPAT malfunctioning complaints were received from 64 polling stations in five hours since polling began for Palghar and Bhandara-Gondiya constituencies at 7 am.
The EC has repaired some EVM-VVPATs or deployed spare machines in many areas, but in at least 35 polling stations, voting would be held at a later date, Walaskar added.
Besides, around 15,000 voters from Mali Ali, Mavanda, Navale and Nandanvan villages in Palghar’s Vasai tehsil boycotted polling, citing lack of developmental works in their area.
Meanwhile, Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh leader and former MP Prakash Ambedkar claimed around 450 Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) malfunctioned and demanded cancellation of the elections in Bhandara-Gondiya.
“I have received reports of problems in some 450 polling stations. Its clear that the EVM-VVPATs have been tampered as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is losing the elections. The entire elections must be cancelled and held afresh,” said Ambedkar
Bahujan Vikas Aghadi leader Hitendra Thakur claimed that “the entire election commission machinery is working on behalf of the BJP in Palghar.”
There were phone calls from the office of a local BJP functionary in Palghar to housing societies about making arrangements for snacks and refreshments for member-voters, Thakur said.
Earlier, voting began at 7 am and there was no untoward incident at any polling booth. Voting will conclude at 4 pm and the counting of votes will take place on May 31.
Around 14 per cent polling was reported for the Bhandara-Gondia seat till 11 am. In Palghar, around seven per cent electorate cast their votes till 9 am.
In Palghar, the bypoll was necessitated following the death of sitting BJP MP Chintaman Wanaga. The BJP’s bickering ally Shiv Sena has fielded the late MP’s son, Srinivas Wanaga, in a bid to garner the sympathy vote.
The BJP has put up former Congress minister Rajendra Gavit and the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi is also in the fray with the nomination of its ex-MP Baliram Jadhav.
Kiran Raja Gahla of the CPI-M, which has a base in Talasari and Dahanu areas, and former MP Damu Shingada (Congress) are also contesting in a multi-cornered fight from the Palghar seat, reserved for Scheduled Tribes (ST).
The Sena had earlier accused the BJP of distributing cash to voters.
During a rally, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray played an audio clip wherein Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis purportedly exhorted the party cadre to win the elections “by all means possible.”
Fadnavis had said the audio recording was doctored.
An editorial in the Sena mouthpiece ‘Saamana’ today said its nominee will win the Palghar seat, despite the BJP roping in UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in the poll campaign.
The constituency includes extended suburbs of Mumbai like Vasai, Virar, Nalasopara and Palghar in the newly-created Palghar district.
In Bhandara-Gondia, the BJP and the NCP have locked horns in the bypoll, being held after the resignation of BJP MP Nana Patole.
Patole, a leader of the powerful OBC Kunbi community, had switched side from the Congress to the BJP and was elected as an MP from the constituency, located in the Vidarbha region, in 2014 by defeating former Union minister and NCP heavyweight Praful Patel.
The NCP, which has allied with the Congress, has fielded former BJP MLA Madhukar Kukde, against BJP’s Hemant Patle, who belongs to the Powar community and is also a former legislator.
With agency inputsView Realtime Updates