NEW DELHI: As complaints about malfunctioning voting machines flowed in from Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh during the by-elections today, the Election Commission said the “severe heat conditions” were interfering with the machines. Kairana in Uttar Pradesh, where Ajit Singh’s RLD has already lodged a complaint, is one of the most-watched by-polls of the 14 elections that are being held across 10 states. The parliamentary constituency is seen as a test case of opposition unity. Bypolls in Maharashtra’s Palghar and Bhandara-Gondiya parliamentary constituencies are witnessing key contests where the BJP is fighting to come back. The counting of votes is on Thursday.
Calling the reports of largescale voting machine malfunction “an exaggeration”, the commission said it is taking steps to correct it. In a statement, the Commission also denied reports of polls being cancelled in 35 booths in the Bhandara-Gondiya Parliamentary Constituency in Maharashtra, saying they were “incorrect”.
In Kairana, RLD candidate Tabassum Hassan filed a complaint alleging that around 150 voting machines were malfunctioning. The biggest polling station of the constituency is seeing a sluggish pace of voting after over 10 voting machines stopped working. Till 4 pm, over 43% voting was recorded, news agency PTI reported.
The BJP has fielded Mriganka Singh, daughter of Hukum Singh whose death made the election necessary. The chief minister, his deputy and some of the top ministers have campaigned relentlessly in face of the opposition challenge. On Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a public meeting in Baghpat, close to the Kairana constituency and spoke of issues that the opposition alleges is a breach of the model code of conduct.
The opposition parties are expecting their network to deliver Dalit, Muslim and Jat votes to Tabassum Hasan. It expected to recreate the successes in Gorakhpur and Phulpur, seats earlier held by UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya. Mayawati’s support to the Samajwadi Party candidate had delivered easy victory in both seats in the recent by-polls.
Bypoll to Palghar Lok Sabha seat in Maharashtra has added further tension to the strained ties between the Shiv Sena and the BJP. After the Shiv Sena gave a ticket to the son of a sitting BJP lawmaker who died earlier this year, the BJP fielded former Congress minister Rajendra Gavit, who joined the party earlier this month.
In Maharashtra’s Bhandara-Gondiya, District Magistrate Abhimanyu Kale said voting was temporarily suspended at 35 booths due to faulty Electronic Voting Machines. By-election to the reserved constituency is taking place after the sitting BJP parliamentarian Nana Patole joined the Congress. The BJP has fielded its former lawmaker Hemant Patle against NCP’s Madhukar Kukde, who is also supported by the Congress.
The Nagaland assembly seat fell vacant after Neiphiu Rio resigned and became chief minister. His Nationalist Democratic People’s Party partnered with the BJP to form a government earlier this year. In today’s bypoll, it’s a direct contest between the two regional fronts, one backed by the BJP and the other backed by the Congress.
The Congress is hoping to win the central Kerala assembly seat of Chengannur, where it’s the Left that usually gets the voters’ backing. The BJP too is hoping to perform better in Chengannur than it did in the 2016 state elections.
In Bihar’s Jokihat, the by-poll is being seen as a prestige battle for Chief Minister Nitish Kumar as sitting JD(U) lawmaker Sarfaraz Alam quit the party and joined the RJD after Mr Kumar joined hands with the BJP last year. After Mr Alam won the Araria Lok Sabha bypoll earlier this year, the RJD has fielded his younger brother to taken on JD(U)’s Murshid Alam.
Bypolls in Ampati assembly seat in Meghalaya’s Garo hills is a battle between the ruling National People’s Party-led alliance led by Chief Minister Conrad Sangma and the Congress, led by former Chief Minister Mukul Sangma.