Faulty Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails (VVPATs) marred by-polls to Kairana Lok Sabha and Noorpur assembly seats on Monday.
Officials blamed a technical snag for the malfunction while the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), which have closed ranks for the by-polls, alleged EVMs had been tampered with at the BJP’s behest.
“The BJP wants to defeat us at any cost as it wants to avenge the defeat of Phulpur and Gorakhpur (Lok Sabha by-polls),” said SP spokesman Rajendra Chaudhary.
He said SP leader Ramgopal Yadav and RLD chief Ajit Singh met the Election Commission officials in Delhi to demand cancellation of the polls and a fresh voting. In Lucknow, SP state president Naresh Uttam and RLD spokesman Anil Dubey rushed to the chief electoral officer (CEO) T Venkatesh Lu’s office in Lucknow to submit a complaint and to demand re-polling.
Chaudhary accused prime minister Narendra Modi and chief minister Yogi Adityanath of misusing government machinery for the polls. He alleged money was distributed among voters on Sunday.
RLD’s candidate from Kairana Tabassum Hasan said faulty machines were not replaced in Muslim and Dalit areas.
SP chief and former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav questioned whether the faulty EVMs were a failure of the election management or a conspiracy to keep the voters away.
BJP spokesman Harish Srivastava said the party leaders too met Lu and requested him to replace faulty EVMs and extend the voting hours. “We also requested that re-polling should be conducted at some of the booths.”
Saharanpur divisional commissioner Chandra Prakash Tripathi said reports about faulty VVPATs came throughout the day and blamed a technical snag failure of engineers for them. “We talked to them and they (engineers) said seniors were informed, but they were not able to help. The engineers blamed the scorching heat for the snag.”
Lu echoed Tripathi and said they would have to develop an alternate mechanism to deal with the technical issues.
Tripathi said Saharanpur and Shamli district magistrates were making a list of the booths, where polling was stopped or affected for over two hours in Kairana. “A re-poll would be conducted at these booths on Wednesday…,” said Tripathi. He claimed most Muslims did not vote due to heat and Ramzan fasting.
Bijnor district magistrate Atal Kumar Rai said the polling was smooth in Noorpur other than complaints of some faulty VVPATs. He added around 61 per cent voters turned out to vote in Noorpur. Officials said 54 per cent polling was recorded in Kairana.
Tripathi said VVPAT machines were used for the first time. “I received complaints about around 55 machines. In the beginning, we replaced around 14-15 machines. Later, engineers started repairing the machines. Around 19 machines were replaced.”
Bijnor police superintendent Umesh Kumar Singh said former Samajwadi Party MP Yashpal Singh was detained for campaigning for his party and bringing voters to the booths in Noorpur. “We seized his three vehicles.”