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Sena, Oppn accuse BJP of manipulating EVMs

Tuesday, May 29, 2018
By Suyash Padate/ Prashant Hamine

ECI terms media reports as exaggerated projection of reality

Malfunctioning of some Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in some polling booths in Bhandara-Gondiya and Palghar (ST) Lok Sabha constituencies where polling was held yesterday has raised the hackles of the Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Congress and others. So much so that senior Sena leader Sanjay Raut while speaking to newspersons yesterday charged the BJP of manipulating the EVMs. While senior NCP leader Praful Patel questioned Election Commission of India's (ECI) move to requisition EVMs from Surat in Gujarat when the same were available in Maharashtra.

As per Election Commission of India (ECI) officials, the tentative polling percentage in Bhandara-Gondiya was 42 percent, while in Palghar (ST) it was 46.50 percent. It is a far cry from the voting percentage in the May 2014 Lok Sabha elections in both the constituencies. In the May 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Bhandara-Gondiya had recorded a voting percentage of 72.31 percent and in Palghar (ST) it was 62.91 percent.

Patel further demanded scrapping of the EVMs and voting be held once again by ballot paper. Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) president Ashok Chavan demanded a repoll in those polling booths where the EVMs malfunctioned. Amid the allegations, Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) leader Prakash Ambedkar has demanded cancellation of the election and re-election in this constituency, that too with ballot paper.

In a swift clarification the ECI stated that reports  appearing in the media of “large scale” failure of EVMs and Voter Verifiable Paper  Audit Trail (VVPAT) in the ongoing by-elections and interruption of poll in the state of Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh “are an exaggerated projection of reality”. On reports aired by some private news channels that polling being canceled in 35 polling booths in Bhandara-Gondiya, the ECI termed the reports as “not based on facts”. It further stated that reports about EVMs and VVPAT machines failing in 25 percent of polling booths in Bhandara-Gondiya “are also incorrect”.

Speaking to newspersons later, ECIs Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, Shirish Mohod stated that there were certain cases of failure due to technical problems in the EVMs and VVPATs. He added that the faulty machines were replaced as and when required following a protocol and that polling was going on peacefully in both the constituencies.

Raut further alleged that the BJP was not only distributing money but also switching off EVM machines. “Earlier, people used to capture booths. Today they have the keys of the EVM machines in their hands. The election commission is under tremendous pressure from the government. The returning officer fears for his job, refuses to take cognizance of money distribution and other illegal practices.”

Patel on the other hand questioned the credibility of the remainder 75 percent of the polling that took place in Bhandara-Gondiya constituency. Terming it as a mockery of democracy, he added that EVMs at 25 per cent polling stations have malfunctioned already in Bhandara-Gondia. Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) leader Prakash Ambedkar argued “I have received reports of problems in some 450 polling stations. Its clear that the EVM-VVPATs have been tampered with as the BJP is losing the election. The entire elections must be canceled and held afresh. We have been demanding the election through secret ballot for quite a long time. The government is not taking the cognizance of this demand. I will be writing to the EC to conduct the re-poll and start the old ballot paper system once again”.

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