New Delhi: The turnout in the mammoth first phase of the general election ranged from excellent — Tripura (81.8 per cent), followed by West Bengal (81 per cent) – to a moderate 56 per cent in Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh. Bihar, one of the most politically aware states recorded the lowest — just 50%.
The remaining states fell in this band: Uttar Pradesh (63.69%), Andhra Pradesh (66%), Telangana (60%) and 58 per cent in Jammu and Kashmir. A pleasant surprise was North East – 60% in Mizoram, 78 % in Nagaland, 78.2 % in Manipur and 68 % in Assam.
The first phase was, however, marred by reports of Electronic Voting Machine malfunction, omissions in voters’ list, the indelible ink failing and clashes in which two persons died in Andhra Pradesh. The reports of glitches came from several places in the 18 states and the two Union Territories that went to polls.
The most vociferous protest was lodged by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, who demanded a re-poll in nearly 150 polling stations due to non-functioning of EVMs. He has claimed that even the EVMs at a polling booth where state Chief Electoral Officer Gopal Krishna Dwivedi went to cast his vote were not functioning.
A video surfaced later in the day which showed several voters lamenting that the EVMs they used seemed to choose a certain symbol regardless of which button they pressed. “We punched on three different symbols, but in all instances, our votes seemed to be going to one. I brought this to the attention of the official in charge, and he agreed that the machine had a glitch.
They checked the machine, and it started functioning properly only after that,” a voter, Dhara Singh, was seen saying in the video. “I just want my vote to go to the party of my choice,” he was quoted as saying by NDTV.EVM snags were also reported at many places in seven constituencies across Maharashtra, including Bhandara and Yavatmal-Washim.
The Bhandara district collector Shantanu Goel, however, claimed that the electoral process was not affected. “Voting went on smoothly and faulty machines — if any – were replaced within 15 minutes,” he added. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal lashed out at the Election Commission on Twitter.
“What is happening, EC? Are these elections fair? Anti-BJP votes deleted all across India. Reports coming from across the country that votes have been deleted on an unprecedented scale. Why are all faulty EVM machines seen to be voting always for BJP?” he asked.
Businesswoman Kiran Mazumdar Shaw’s mother was one of those whose name was deleted in the electoral rolls. “My mother’s voter ID has been deleted on some flimsy excuse – on the basis of a finding that she no longer lives at her address. She is so upset I can’t tell you because she has been residing at the same address for the last 19 years.
So much for ‘verification’,” Shaw said in a tweet. In Jammu and Kashmir, the National Conference and the PDP alleged that uniformed personnel coerced people to vote for the BJP and EVMs malfunctioned in some places with the Congress button not working during polling in Poonch area.
National Conference vice president Omar Abdullah posted a video of presiding officer from Poonch area explaining the malfunctioning of an EVM button. When he was asked which button was not working, he replied: “Haath ka button (button showing hand),” he said. The hand is the election symbol of the Congress party.