New Delhi: Election 2019 kicked off to a troubled start Thursday with two people being killed in clashes in Andhra Pradesh, an IED blast in Maharashtra, reports of EVM glitches and multiple complaints from voters about their names not being on the electoral list.
As round one of the seven-phase Lok Sabha election began in 91 constituencies across the length and breadth of India, from the hills of Kashmir to the islands of Andaman and Nicobar, reports of unrest and irregularities cast shadows over the poll process.
In the Naxal stronghold of Chhattisgarh, four guerrillas were arrested and firearms seized from them in Bijapur district bordering Odisha while the poll process was underway. Naxals detonated an IED in Narayanpur in Bastar region early Thursday. No casualties were reported here too.
There were reports of violence from Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh while the chiefs of several parties, including TDP’s N Chandrababu Naidu, AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal and PDP’s Mehbooba Mufti, came forward to complain about administrative lapses.
In Andhra Pradesh, where elections are being held for 25 Lok Sabha and 175 Assembly seats, one worker from the Telugu Desam Party and one from opposition YSR Congress were killed in a clash in Tadipatri Assembly constituency in Anantapuramu district.
Condemning the killing of his party worker, TDP president Chandrababu Naidu accused the YSR Congress of indulging in violence to win the election.
The opposition countered it by saying followers of TDP MP JC Diwakar Reddy and MLA JC Prabhakar Reddy tried to rig votes in a booth at Veerapuram. The two parties clashed in other parts of the state as well with reports of stone throwing and allegations of attacks and vandalism coming in from Eluru and Jammalamadugu in Kadapa district and Narsaraopet constituency in Guntur district.
Elsewhere in the state, Madhusudan Gupta, a Jana Sena Party candidate, was arrested after he smashed an EVM in Guntakal, alleging the party symbols were not properly printed on the ballot unit.
In Maharashtra, Naxals triggered an IED blast near a polling booth in Waghezari of Gadchiroli district while voting was underway, police said. Many miles away, an IED was detected in an oil pipeline passing through a tea garden in Assam’s Dibrugarh district. Security forces rushed to the spot to ensure there is no trouble.
In Kairana in western Uttar Pradesh, BSF personnel fired in the air at a polling booth when some people, who were not carrying their identity cards, tried to forcibly enter the premises to cast their votes, police said.
Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal took to Twitter and tagged people who claimed their names or the names of their relatives have been deleted from voter lists.
“Anti-BJP votes were deleted all across India. Reports coming from all across India that votes have been deleted on unprecedented scale. Why are all faulty EVM machines seen to be voting always for BJP,” Kejriwal said in a tweet. In Jammu and Kashmir, the National Conference and the PDP alleged uniformed personnel coerced people to vote for the BJP and EVMs malfunctioned in Poonch with the Congress button not working during polling in Jammu’s Poonch area.
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti tweeted a video showing voters raising anti-BJP slogans after they were purportedly roughed up by the BSF for not voting for the BJP.
“Using armed forces at polling stations to coerce people to vote for the BJP shows their desperation & hunger to usurp power by hook or crook,” PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said in her tweet.
66 % polling in Odisha
Bhubaneswar: Barring incidents of delays in commencing voting due to technical snags in the EVMs and VVPAT machines, the first phase polling in Odisha was by and large peaceful.
Four Lok Sabha seats – Koraput, Nabarangpur, Kalahandi and Berhampur – and 28 Assembly segments coming under these LS seats went to polls, Thursday.
Addressing a presser here, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Surendra Kumar said, “As per reports from the constituencies, approximately 66 per cent of voters comprising 60 lakh electorate have exercised their franchise till 4.45 pm. We expect the turnout to rise as the polling exercise is still underway.”
No untoward incident was reported from any part of the state and polling across the state went off peacefully, Kumar said.
In several Maoist-affected areas, long queues of voters were seen outside the polling stations, he said.
“Of the 28 Assembly constituencies that went to polls, 20 were in Maoist-prone areas in the state. Although 15 booths in Malkangiri district did not cast votes due to Maoist threat, people came out in large numbers in Maoist belts to exercise their franchise,” the CEO stated.
The election office also received reports of “poll boycott from a couple of places”, where people chose to skip voting over local issues and demands, he said.
The CEO asserted that officials in charge of elections attended to complaints of technical glitches in Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
“Altogether 169 VVPATs, 62 ballot units and 65 control units had to be replaced. All poll personnel had undergone extensive training to attend to such glitches,” he said.
Admitting that the poll process was delayed in some booths of Koraput, Kalahandi, Nabarangpur and Berhampur districts owing to the technical reasons, Kumar said the process, however, picked up pace after corrective measures were taken.
“For the first time in the state, 18,500 braille ballot papers were made available at the booths to help visually impaired voters,” the CEO said, adding arrangements were made to provide wheelchairs to differently abled and elderly persons.
Prominent among those who voted included former Union minister Chandra Sekhar Sahoo, who is the BJD candidate from Berhampur Lok Sabha seat and BJP Odisha unit president Basant Panda, also in the fray from Kalahandi Lok Sabha seat.
Congress leader and former minister Bhakta Charan Das and BJD’s Pushpendra Singhdeo, who have crossed swords in Kalahandi Lok Sabha seat, also exercised their franchise in the morning.
In Kalimela block of Malkangiri district, however, a 45-year-old man, who was waiting to cast his vote outside a booth, collapsed and died, apparently due to the sweltering heat, a police officer said. The man has been identified as Bhima Kabasi of MPV-74 village in the district, he added.
Lok Sabha and Assembly elections are being held simultaneously in the state in four phases. Polling for the next three phases will be held April 18, 23 and 29 while counting will be done May 23.