Complaints of EVM malfunctioning in some states; cross-complaints in Bengal; two hacked to death in Andhra Pradesh.
Amid stray incidents of violence, minor border skirmishes and Maoist attacks, and reports of EVM malfunctions, the first phase of voting for the Lok Sabha elections ended on Thursday across 91 LS constituencies in 20 states and Union Territories with over 14 crore eligible voters. Polling was also held at 175 Assembly seats in Andhra Pradesh, 32 in Sikkim, 57 in Arunachal Pradesh and 28 seats in Odisha.
In AP, at least two people —one YSRCP activist and one TDP activist — were hacked to death in Tadipatri in Anantapur district in poll-related violence as both factions clashed outside a polling booth.
In the same district, Jana Sena Party candidate Madhusudan Gupta threw an EVM machine at Guntakal and was arrested. Sources said he turned violent claiming that the EVM did not display the names and photos of candidates properly.
AP chief electoral officer (CEO) Gopal Krishna Dwivedi said barring a few incidents, disturbances were controlled by paramilitary forces and local police.
Officials also said at least 344 EVMs did not function properly on Thursday resulting in delays for nearly half an hour at around 110 voting across the state. Dwivedi said that 319 EVM issues were resolved within a couple of hours and polling resumed.
Meanwhile, in Jammu, Pakistani troops fired half a dozen shots from small arms at frequent intervals around 2 pm barely 500 m away from the Government Middle School, Bardoh, where voting was underway. Bardoh is the last Indian village along the LoC in J&K’s Akhnoor sector and comprises 986 voters. The school, in which polling station has been set up, is the last building along the LoC towards Pakistan side.
In the Maoist-affected states of Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh, police said Naxals triggered IEDs and opened fire on a polling party. While an IED exploded near a polling booth in Gadchiroli district, causing no casualties, two police commandos escorting a poll party were injured in another IED blast in Etapalli in the same district.
And in Chhattisgarh, four Maoists were arrested and firearms seized from them in Bijapur district while the poll process was underway. Naxals also detonated an IED in Narayanpur in the Bastar region, where no casualties were reported.
In Uttar Pradesh’s Kairana, BSF personnel fired in the air at a polling booth when some people, who were allegedly not carrying identity cards, tried to forcibly enter the premises to cast their votes, said police. Three Union ministers — VK Singh (Ghaziabad), Satyapal Singh (Baghpat) and Mahesh Sharma (Gautam Buddh Nagar) — are in the fray in the first leg of the seven-phase polls. UP on Thursday recorded 64% polling till 6 pm.
State CEO L Venkateshwarlu also denied charges by the BSP that people, especially Dalits, were being prevented from exercising their franchise in UP. “These (reports) are only rumours… We have spoken to all DMs (district magistrates) in this regard. These are only rumours, as they are not mentioning any specific polling booth,” he told PTI.
In West Bengal, Opposition parties, including the BJP, lodged complaints with the EC alleging rigging in booths where no central forces were deployed and intimidation of voters while the ruling TMC alleged that central forces were working on behalf of the BJP government at the Centre. After voting in Cooch Behar and Alipurduar Lok Sabha seats in North Bengal, officials said the polling percentage until 3 pm in Cooch Behar was 68.44% while in Alipurduar it was 69.94%. According to sources, the EC is likely to bring in an additional 25 companies of paramilitary forces for the second phase of polls on April 18. — (With ENS in Jammu, Hyderabad and Kolkata)
In Baramulla, a break from violence as 32% cast their votes
In Jammu, though 24 candidates are in the fray, the contest is between sitting BJP Member of Parliament Jugal Kishore and Congress’ Raman Bhalla, a former minister and two-time MLA from Gandhi Nagar Assembly constituency. Polling was brisk across districts in Jammu, with Samba on the international border recording the highest turnout at 73.8% by 5 pm. Poonch district, along the Line of Control, recorded 68% turnout. By 5 pm, of the 20-lakh electorate on Jammu parliamentary constituency, nearly 70% had cast their vote. Jammu and Rajouri districts witnessed 69.7% and 65.7% turnout, respectively. Sources said the turnout may cross 75%.