Bihar Assembly Election: EVM glitches delay polling in several booths; low turnout in phase one

FP Staff
·6-min read

Nearly 53.46 percent of 2.14 crore electors are projected to have voted Wednesday in phase one of the three-phase Bihar Assembly Election 2020, the first major election to take place in India amid the coronavirus pandemic. The projected turnout was slightly less than what was seen in the 2015 Bihar polls when 54.94 percent of the electorate voted in the first phase.

The three-phase election in Bihar began on 28 October with 71 of the state's 243 seats voting. The next two phases will be held on 3 and 7 November. The results will be announced on 10 November.

Voter turnout was low in the beginning, but it progressed with the time everywhere notwithstanding raging coronavirus cases in the state.

In some places, voters waited in queues for over an hour and some even returned home without casting votes as technical snags affected the functioning of over 75 EVMs or VVPATs in Munger, Arwal, Gaya, and Nawada districts, reports The New Indian Express.

Voters in Gaya, Jahanabad, Aurangabad, Jamui, Bhabhua, Sasaram, Baka, Kaimur also complained of technical and other errors in EVMs. Due to this, polling started late by 30 minutes to 2 hours at several places.

In Munger, technical glitches in Electronic Voting Machines or EVMS were reported in polling booths 165 and 231. The polling agents at these booths claimed that one EVM had the name of the RJD candidate but the party poll symbol was missing.

A polling agent, identified as Krishna Singh, died due to a heart attack at the Phulma booth in Hisua Assembly segment in Nawada district, according to Hindustan Times.

Meanwhile, in Sasaram, a 65-year-old voter, identified as Heera Mahto, reportedly died after getting unconscious while standing in a queue at a polling station.

Jamui Assembly constituency sees technical glitches in 55 booths

The Jamui Assembly, which saw delayed polling due to technical slags, is part of LJP president Chirag Paswan's Lok Sabha constituency and has become a high-profile seat with 14 candidates, including Shreyasi Singh, a champion shooter and daughter of former Union minister Digvijay Singh contesting from here on BJP ticket.

As per a report by India Today, RJD candidate for the seat Vijay Prakash, made demands for the polling be cancelled in 55 booths after repeated complaints of EVM malfunction.

Prakash said the EVMs at these polling booths in Jamui were not working despite being replaced. The RJD candidate then went on to blame the Centre and BJP for the EVMs not working and said that the seat would vote for RJD, hence the issues.

Meanwhile, according to Hindi news publication Hindustan, voting was conducted between 7 am to 4 pm on 26 seats, while polling concluded at four seats in the red corridor at 3 pm only.

Minimal cases of EVM malfunctioning reported: EC

In a departure from trend, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora on Wednesday addressed a press conference after the completion of the first phase of the Assembly election in Bihar. Usually, the presser is addressed by the state in-charge of the ECI and the Chief Election Commissioner of the respective state.

Arora thanked the state and EC authorities for smoothly conducting the voting. He said that conducting the polls amid pandemic in a smooth manner was a huge leap of faith for the ECI, instead of a step in the dark.

The election commission chief said that Phase 1 of the elections were conducted in a satisfactory manner with very minimal cases of Electronic Voting Machine malfunction were reported this year. The ECI said that only 0.22 percent of the total ballot units deployed developed a glitch, 0.25 percent of control units were reported as malfunctioning and only 1.25 percent of VVPATS had to be replaced.

The malfunctions impacted voting time in only one Assembly constituency: 241 Jamui, where polling was extended till 7 pm to make up for the lost time.

The EC on Wednesday also said that the polling for the first phase included 12 Naxal-hit districts, of which four were considered extremely hit by the Left-wing extremism. Arora, however, expressed satisfaction about the arrangement and said the polling was conducted in a satisfactory manner.

Deputy Election Commissioner in-charge of Bihar Chandra Bhushan said that there were 2.14 crore electors in the first phase and a total of 85,368 postal ballots were cast, The Hindu reported. He added that 89 cases of violation of COVID-19 norms were registered in the first phase of voting.

Bhushan also stated that 450 complaints of the Model Code of Conduct violation were filed through the C-Vigil app on Wednesday.

BJP files complaint against Rahul Gandhi over tweet

The BJP in Bihar on Wednesday lodged a complaint against Congress leader Rahul Gandhi with the Election Commission, charging him with violating the model code of conduct by "asking for votes" in a tweet on a polling day.

State BJP legal cell head SD Sanjay shot off the written complaint to the Chief Electoral Officer of Bihar requesting "legal action" against Gandhi who also addressed a couple of rallies in the state earlier in the day.

As per the complaint, Gandhi had "issued a statement on Twitter asking for votes... today. The time for making an appeal for the first phase of polls was over 28 hours earlier".

According to Sanjay, who is a former Additional Solicitor General of India, such an appeal made on the day of polling was "in utter violation of Model Code of Conduct, warranting action against him".

Modi cautions against 'jungle raj'

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi too addressed multiple rallies across the state on Wednesday. Addressing a gathering in Muzaffarpur, he said the Opposition, if voted back to power, will only bring back anarchy and "jungle raj" in Bihar and invoked Ayodhya's Ram Temple

Modi also cautioned people against the double whammy Bihar could face if those responsible for having turned the state "bimar" (sick) were voted to power amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Addressing a rally in Patna, the prime minister said: "In this difficult time of the pandemic, Bihar needs to maintain a stable government. A government that will ensure the development and good governance."

Gandhi on Wednesday stepped up his criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar. He said at an election rally in Champaran that people in the state won't be able to obtain jobs because their chief minister was weak.

He also attacked Modi, throwing at him "chai and pakoda" jibes and accusing him of "not talking about" issues confronting India such as unemployment but speaking only about other countries.

In the Bihar Assembly polls this year, the Rashtriya Janata Dal is contesting from 144 seats, the Congress 70, and the Left parties will together contest from 29 seats.

With inputs from PTI

Also See: Bihar Assembly Election 2020 Voting Updates: 53.34% polling till 6 pm; Banka registers highest turnout at 59.57%

Rahul Gandhi, at Bihar rally, attacks Narendra Modi for not speaking about unemployment in his speeches

Bihar Election Phase 1: Polling begins in 71 constituencies amid tight security; COVID-19 guidelines in place

Read more on India by Firstpost.