Panchkula: Turnout dips, day ends with ruckus over EVM ‘tampering’https://indianexpress.com/elections/panchkula-turnout-dips-day-ends-with-ruckus-over-evm-tampering-6081289/

Panchkula: Turnout dips, day ends with ruckus over EVM ‘tampering’

On Monday, the district recorded an average 64.8 per cent turnout with Panchkula at 59.1 per cent and Kalka at 70.5 per cent.

Panchkula: Turnout dips, day ends with ruckus over EVM ‘tampering’
Some glitches in EVM machines were reported in rural parts of the constituency. (Representational Image)

PANCHKULA RECORDED a lower turnout as compared to the last two Haryana Assembly elections. On Monday, the district recorded an average 64.8 per cent turnout with Panchkula at 59.1 per cent and Kalka at 70.5 per cent. While 2014’s turnout was an average 72 per cent (Panchkula at 65 per cent and Kalka at 79 per cent), 2009’s was 67 per cent (Panchkula at 57 per cent and Kalka at 77 per cent).

The turnout had been low since Monday morning itself. At 10 am, only three per cent had cast their votes in Kalka and nine per cent in Panchkula. The numbers increased slowly, but there was no rush at most polling booths. The voting percentage stood at only 31 per cent in Panchkula at 2 pm. “People come out in huge numbers to vote only when they want a change. The current scenario looks like the people are happy,” said a voter.

Higher turnout in rural areas

Staying true to the voting trend last time, rural Panchkula recorded a better turnout than urban, which made the average see a rise, but the numbers have seen a fall of at least 10 percent overall. In 2014’s Assembly election, only 50 per cent of the urban population had come out to vote while the rural population had voted in huge numbers with their average amounting to 80 per cent. This year the number is expected to be around 40 per cent for urban and 70 per cent for rural.

Justice Sudhir Mittal of the Punjab Haryana High Court, who had come with his family to cast his vote, said, “The process of elections and voting is extremely important for a democracy to thrive. All citizens don’t just have the right but a responsibility to come forward and choose who will represent them.”

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The elections saw a peaceful end overall. A minor scuffle broke out between two polling agents of different political parties at Kami village. All the 100 ‘vulnerable’ areas too saw a peaceful poll.

EVM glitches

Some glitches in EVM machines were reported in rural parts of the constituency. The EVM at booth no. 57 in Kalka at the Government College only worked after 8 am, the one at Abheypur started functioning at 8.30 am while another at Bharaili, set up at the Government Senior Secondary School started functioning half an hour late at 7.30 am.

Many of the candidates reached the booths early around 7 am with their families, after offering prayers at their homes. These included BJP’s Gian Chand Gupta and Latika Sharma, Congress’ Chander Mohan and Swaraj India’s Madhu Anand. Main contenders of the two main rival parties BJP and Congress in both Panchkula and Kalka were spotted visiting polling booths throughout the day. Polling agents were selected on a proximity basis — to booths near their homes — to ensure voters see friendly faces when they arrive.

12.7% turnout at all-women booth

The sole ‘Sakhi booth’ (for women) that had been set up by the Election Commission with an all-women staff at the Government Senior Secondary School of Sector 6 saw the lowest turnout of 12.7 per cent with only 115 people showing up to vote of the total 902 registered. “This is because most of our registered voters are Army personnel who live at Chandimandir, thus the location is far and inconvenient to them. Maybe if we had had a closer location, more would have voted,” said presiding officer of the booth Sushila Jangra.

‘People breaking seals, machines lying open’

High drama ensued at Panchkula’s Government PG College, Sector 1, at around 9 pm Monday as Congress levelled allegations of EVM tampering against Election Commission officials.

Though polling took place peacefully, tensions rose high at night in the premises, where the strong room is situated. Congress’ agents alleged that EVM machines lay out in the open. Senior party members along with hundreds of workers reached the site at around 9 pm.

Due to the ruckus, the college’s entry gates were blocked and extra police force was called. Even the media was denied entry. The SHO Traffic, who stood guarding the gate said, “We have recieved direct orders from the DCP and DC to not let anybody enter.”

It was only after 11 pm that media was permitted to enter. Many members of opposition parties too arrived and accused the ruling party of manipulating the results.

Congress candidate Chander Mohan said, “We’ll lodge a formal complaint tomorrow. These people are breaking the seals of envelopes and machines are lying in the open and are being tampered with.”

Questioning the police, he said, “An SP was roaming around with the sitting MLA all day long. Is he the BJP candidate’s agent?”

AAP’s Yogeshwar Sharma said, “It is clear that all officials present including Election Commissioner, elections in-charge, SDMs and tehsildar are all involved.”

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A senior EC official denied any allegations of tampering and said, “The machines had only been opened to remove the batteries. All control units and VV pads have been secured in the strong room.”

The DC and DCP did not respond to calls.

Express News Service