65.5% polling in Madhya Pradesh Assembly polls; 1145 EVMs replaced

PTI

Jabalpur: People wait with their identity cards to cast their votes for the Assembly elections, in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, Wednesday, Nov 28, 2018. (PTI Photo)

Jabalpur: People wait with their identity cards to cast their votes for the Assembly elections, in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, Wednesday, Nov 28, 2018. (PTI Photo)

Altogether 65.5 per cent of voters exercised their franchise in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections Wednesday, just over seven per cent less than the figure in the previous polls.

In the 2013 Assembly election, 72.69 per cent turnout was recorded, an election official said.

The polling Wednesday was marred by complaints of faulty Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVVPAT) machines. Poll officials said 1,145 EVMs and 1,545 VVPATs were replaced after complaints of technical snags.

Polling was held between 8 am and 5 pm in 227 seats, while in three Assembly segments – Lanji, Paraswada and Baihar – in the Naxal-affected Balaghat district, the voting time was between 7 am and 3 pm, state Chief Electoral Officer V L Kantha Rao said.

About 2.5 per cent of (polling) machines were replaced, Rao said, adding that the rate was around two per cent in other states where elections were held recently.

Three employees died due to “health reasons” while performing poll duties in Dhar, Indore and Guna districts, he said.

At Gadhpura village in Bhind district, a person was injured in violence but it was not poll-related, he said. The incident happened “far from the booth” and was related to enmity between two groups, Rao added.

Asked about reports that some EVMs were found in a hotel, the chief electoral officer said, “We have got the information that a sector officer in Shujalpur was staying in a hotel along with ballot machines. On getting information, the officers reached the hotel and seized the machine. The officer concerned was removed (from poll duty) and the polling team was sent along with a new sector officer.”

Jabalpur: People wait with their identity cards to cast their votes for the Assembly elections, in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, Wednesday, Nov 28, 2018. (PTI Photo)

Jabalpur: People wait with their identity cards to cast their votes for the Assembly elections, in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, Wednesday, Nov 28, 2018. (PTI Photo)

Congress leaders claimed that EVMs at many places had malfunctioned.

“There were several complaints that EVMs at many places malfunctioned. We requested the Election Commission to extend the voting time in these polling booths to compensate for the delay,” Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia said in the afternoon while polling was on.

“Several reports are coming from across the state that EVMs are not working. This has been affecting the polling. Long queues are being witnessed in the city. EC should immediately take decision. The EVMs should be changed,” state Congress chief Kamal Nath tweeted when voting was in progress.

Responding to the demand, CEC O P Rawat said in Delhi that there were provisions for the extension of time, and local officers (in Madhya Pradesh) could take the call on the matter.

Earlier in the day, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, BJP candidate from Budhni seat, and his wife Sadhana Singh cast their votes at his native village Jait, which is part of his Assembly constituency.

Kamal Nath cast his vote in Chhindwara district, while Scindia, the party’s state campaign committee chief, exercised his franchise in Gwalior.

The battle of ballots in Madhya Pradesh is just months ahead of the Lok Sabha polls slated in the first half of 2019.

As many as 2,899 candidates, including 1,094 Independents, are in the fray for the 230-seat Assembly. The state has 5.04 crore eligible voters.

Also, 3,00,782 government employees, including 45,904 women, were on poll duty and 65,341 polling stations were set up.

(PTI)