Faulty electronic voting machines in several booths hindered the election process in Maharashtra’s Palghar and Bhandara-Gondiya Lok Sabha bye-polls on Monday. District Magistrate Abhimanyu Kale said voting was temporarily suspended at 35 booths in Bhandara-Gondiya following reports of malfunctioning electronic voting machines, ANI reported.
In Palghar and Bhandara-Gondiya, 25% polling was recorded till 2 pm. The returning officer in Palghar, Prashant Narnaware, said though there were some “problems and panic” in the morning, the machines were working properly after 12 pm.
Rajendra Gavit, the BJP’s candidate in Palghar demanded that polling time be extended in some booths, The Indian Express reported.
“We are in consultation with the Central Election Commission about extension of voting time,” ANI quoted Narnaware as saying.
“In many big European nations, election commissions have rejected the EVMs and gone back to ballot paper system,” Nationalist Congress Party leader Praful Patel said. “Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav called me up and said that 300 EVMs were malfunctioning in Kairana.”
Voters in several other booths in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand also alleged the machines were malfunctioning.
Voting for bye-elections in four Lok Sabha constituencies and nine Assembly seats across 10 states are under way. The Lok Sabha seats where bye-elections will take place are Palghar and Bhandara-Gondiya in Maharashtra, Kairana in Uttar Pradesh, and Nagaland’s sole parliamentary constituency. The Assembly bye-elections are under way in Gomia and Silli constituencies of Jharkhand, Noorpur in Uttar Pradesh, Shahkot in Punjab, Jokihat in Bihar, Chengannur in Kerala, Ampati in Meghalaya, Tharali in Uttarakhand and Maheshtala in West Bengal. All results will be declared on May 31.
In Uttar Pradesh, Rashtriya Lok Dal candidate Tabassum Hasan wrote to the Election Commission after polling began, complaining that voting machines and voter-verified paper audit trail were malfunctioning at nearly 175 booths, ANI reported. The Samajwadi Party, which is supporting Hasan in the election, also wrote to the election panel, accusing the state government for the malfunctioning machines.
Shiv Sena leader Anil Desai said the technical problems are an indicator of the election commission’s failure. “If this is the situation in bye-polls, think about the upcoming Lok Sabha elections,” Desai told ANI. “We have said it again and again and other parties have also agreed, that elections should be conducted using ballot papers.”
Ever since electronic voting machines were introduced, Opposition parties have expressed concerns about the possibility of tampering. They alleged that the voting machines were rigged, especially after the Bharatiya Janata Party’s victories in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.