LUCKNOW: Even though bypoll to Kairana parliamentary and Noorpur Assembly seat was marred largely by the EVM and VVPAT dysfunction with both the opposition and ruling parties getting engaged in a war of words, 54.17% voters turned up in Kairana and 61 % in Noorpur to exercise their franchise braving ferocities of the sun on Monday.
However, the Election Commission had extended the voting time till 6 pm on booths with EVMs anomalies. As per the EC sources, repolling ordered in 35 booths in both the constituencies where polling remained stalled for more than two hours due to EVM malfunction or any other reason.
In Kairana, poll percentage remained low as compared to 2104 when huge 73 per cent voters had cast their votes to elect BJP’s Hukum Singh by a huge margin. Similarly, in 2017 Assembly elections, Noorpur had recorded 66 per cent voting. Intense heat wave sweeping across the state, the month of Ramzan apart from faulty EVMs apparently kept voters indoors or turned them away.
Indulging in blame game, while Samajwadi Party (SP) and Rashtirya Lok Dal (RLD) smelt the rat in EVM malfunction and blamed it on the misuse of official machinery at the behest of ruling BJP, the latter shot back by claiming that sensing defeat opposition was losing patience and getting frustrated.
According to UP Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) M Venkateshwar Lu, as many as 384 EVMs and VVPAT machines together went allegedly dysfunctional during polling in the two constituencies. The CEO, however, attributed the snag in the machines to high day time temperatures and heat wave affecting the server.
Meanwhile, Shamli District Magistrate Indra Vikram Singh also attributed the glitches in voting machines to high temperature. “VVPAT machines' sensor is developing a glitch due to heat. We are getting real time complaints and we are resolving the issue within 15 minutes. Each issue is being resolved within 15 minutes as officers are there at every centre."
As the reports of EVM anomalies started pouring in, the RLD candidate of Kairana Tabassum Hassan shot off a letter to Election Commission of India claiming that the voters were being deliberately denied a to cast vote on one pretext or the other. In her letter, which was released on social media later, the RLD candidate said: “The EVMs are not being mended despite repeated complaints.” She also cast aspersions on ECI claiming that the date for bypoll was decided deliberately during Ramzan anticipating that Muslim won’t go out to vote. “But it proved to be a myth which was busted by the voters who turned up in large numbers despite roza,” she asserted.
Even a combined SP-RLD delegation met the CEO in Lucknow over the issue and the senior leaders of both the parties—SP general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav and RLD chief Ajit Singh—met Chief Election Commissioner in Delhi on the issue of faulty EVMs demanding repoll in affected booths.
Akhilesh Yadav too expressed suspicion by taking to Twitter and said: ``Ye takneeki kharabi hai ya chunav prabandhan ki viflata ya fir janta ko matadhikaar se vanchit karne ki sazish...is tarah se toh loktantra ki buniyaad hi hil jayegi... (Is it a technical fault or election mismanagement or a conspiracy to deny voters their right to vote...this will shake the foundation of democracy).''
RLD vice –president Jayant Chaudhary called it a “systemic anarchy” in which the voters were no more allowed to cast votes freely. He even claimed that the voting machines went out of order on the booths of those segments where RLD had a sound position.
On the other, reacting to opposition’s allegation BJP state chief Mahendra Nath Pandey claimed that they (opposition) were unnerved by the sense of defeat they were getting in both the constituencies. “The opposition was getting frustrated as they were staring at defeat. The EVM malfunctioning has caused problems to all voters, including the BJP supporters,’’ said Pandey who later met the CEO in state capital.
A BJP delegation, led by party state vice-president JPS Rathore also met the CEO to express concern over the EVM malfunctioning submitting a list polling booths where EVMs developed snag.
As per the EC sources, total 2,651 EVM control units, 2,651 ballot units and 2,596 VVPAT's were used in the polling process. The poll panel had deployed 53 companies of the para-military forces and 10 companies of PAC to ensure incident free voting.
In all there were 16,09,628 voters -- 8,73,120 men, 7,36,431 women and 77 of the third gender -- in Kairana. In Noorpur, there 3,06,226 male voters, 1,41,924 women and 10 from the third gender. There were 2,056 polling booths and 1,094 polling centres in all. To ensure free, fair and peaceful elections, the poll panel has deputed three general observers and two expenditure observers.