Election Commission loses the byelections as EVMs malfunction

The Election Commission of India took another hit on its credibility and integrity on Monday after claiming that EVM machines and VVPAT units malfunctioned due to ‘heat’

IANS Photo
IANS Photo

NH Political Bureau

The Election Commission of India emerged as the biggest loser at the end of polling on Monday for four Lok Sabha constituencies and 10 assembly constituencies. The byelections became necessary after the seats fell vacant following the demise of the sitting MPs and MLAs and resignation of one sitting MP.

A large number of complaints were received about malfunctioning of both Electronic Voting Machines as well as VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Trail) from Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh Lok Sabha constituencies of Palghar and Bhandara-Gondia and Kairana, respectively. In many booths polling had to be suspended and local EC officials blamed the malfunction on the ‘heat factor’ and ended up inviting ridicule.

A more serious allegation was made by Nationalist Congress Party leader Praful Patel, who said the party had complained against using EVMs brought from Surat in Gujarat and they were the ones which were reportedly acting up. He demanded the election be scrapped and held again with paper ballots. Similar complaints were made by both the Shiv Sena in Palghar and from the Rashtriya Lok Dal candidate at Kairana, Tabassum Hasan.

Questions raised over EVM malfunction

The Opposition and even a section of the media were quick to raise two questions:

  • When the EVMs functioned well in the month of May in 2004 and 2009 general elections and presumably in most of the 10 assembly constituencies where byelections were held today, why have there been so many complaints from three of the four Lok Sabha constituencies where polling was held today? (the fourth constituency is in Nagaland)
  • Why is it that the BJP is least vocal about EVM complaints?

The Election Commission’s credibility also took a beating since it claimed in a statement that sufficient number of EVMs and VVPAT units were available in reserve with the sector officers in charge of 10-12 polling booths. It would take no more than half an hour to replace malfunctioning machines and units, the Commission claimed. But reports from many booths maintained that there were delays of one and two hours before the machines were replaced. Many of the voters went away, unable to bear the heat.

Tabassum Hasan alleged that the Election Commission erred by holding the byelections during the month of Ramzan. “They did not expect so many voters, especially Muslim voters, to come out in this heat while fasting,” she said before adding that when they saw a high turnout, the next plan was to delay the voting by reporting that the machines had developed glitches.

On Twitter, people gave vent to their disappointment.

ANI quoted SP's Rajendra Chaudhary as saying, “There are reports that in Noorpur 140 EVMs are faulty, which is because they've been tampered, there are similar reports from Kairana. BJP wants to defeat us at any cost.”

"Machines are being tampered everywhere, faulty machines haven't been replaced in Muslim-Dalit dominated areas. They (BJP) think they can win polls like this. That won't happen," says SP-RLD joint candidate Tabassum Hasan after casting her vote.

“Totally unfair elections then...coz if once the voter gets harrowed & returns home then they won’t come back to vote in this scorching heat...result will be totally unfair then...#ElectionCommissionOfIndia please fix the problem...unfair elections...,” fumed a user on Twitter.

In Maharashtra, Election Commission (EC) officer in-charge Abhimanyu Kale told the media that around 156 VVPATs or EVMs were replaced or spares deployed

Dismissing Assistant EC officer Anant Walaskar's earlier statement that after complaints were received from 64 polling stations, voting was cancelled in 35, Kale said: "Nobody has the authority to decide this except the EC and no such orders have been issued."

Walaskar had told the media in the morning that voting has been stopped in 35 polling stations and would be conducted at a later date owing to serious glitches in the EVMs.

Praful Patel alleged that "nearly 25% of all the EVMs in Bhandara-Gondiya are defective or malfunctioning". "I have come to know that around 60 machines are defective in each Assembly segment of this Lok Sabha constituency. The EC must take serious note of this. What is the security of the votes that have already been case in the malfunctioning EVMs?" Patel told media persons.

Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said the glitch is nothing but a manifestation of Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis' recent controversial statement on 'saam, daam, dand, bhed'. "The EC is under pressures not to even register complaints... the defective machines are mostly in the Sena strongholds," he said.

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. It's clear that the EVMs 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 BR Ambedkar.

With IANS inputs

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