With serious malfunctioning in the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) electronic voting machines (EVMs), polling was cancelled in at least 35 polling stations in the Bhandara-Gondiya Lok Sabha bye-elections on Monday. 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 a.m.
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. The officer denied rumours that elections in the entire constituency were cancelled, saying polling continued normally in all the other areas. The EVM-VVPATs malfunctioned in polling booths at Khapa, Mandhal, Hingna and Kharbi in Bhandara-Gondiya, besides Tarapur, Shelvali, Kamare, Satpati, Maikhop, Dhuktan, Chinchan and other polling stations in Palghar.
Work on replacing the VVPAT-EVMs was underway as hundreds of voters patiently waited to cast their votes in the blistering heat. According to current estimates, complaints of faulty or malfunctioning EVM-VVPATs were received from a total of 140 polling stations in both the constituencies. Taking strong objections, Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) President Prakash Ambedkar 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, the grandson of Dalit leader B.R. Ambedkar.
Since polling started, both the constituencies recorded brisk polling with more than an average 15 per cent of the electorate exercising their franchise, but the tempo is likely to subside as people may remain indoors in the afternoon due to high temperatures. Tight security has been deployed in both the Lok Sabha constituencies to prevent any untoward incidents.