Allegations of electronic voting machines malfunctioning returned to haunt the Election Commission as four Lok Sabha seats and nine assembly constituencies went for bypolls on Monday across 10 states with moderate-to-heavy voting amid prestige at stake for the Bharatiya Janata Party as well as opposition parties ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The counting of votes will take place on May 31.
Over 54 per cent polling was recorded in the Kairana Lok Sabha constituency while 61 per cent votes were cast in the Noorpur assembly constituency where bypolls were held amid complaints of EVMs malfunctioning.
According to an Election Commission official, Kairana Lok Sabha bypoll saw a turnout of 54.17 per cent while the figure was 61 per cent for the Noorpur assembly constituency. Polling was peaceful at both the places, the official said.
Amid complaints of EVM malfunctioning, the EC assured that faulty machines were being changed and a re-poll would be ordered, wherever necessary.
The assurance came against the backdrop of opposition Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Lok Dal complaining of snags in the electronic voting machines.
SP spokesman Rajendra Chaudhary charged that 140 EVMs were tampered with in Noorpur while similar reports had come in from Kairana as well.
The Kairana bypoll is significant as it would test the popularity of the ruling BJP in the electorally crucial state of Uttar Pradesh. The bypoll was necessitated by the death of BJP MP Hukum Singh in February.
His daughter Mriganka Singh is the BJP candidate, pitted against Rashtriya Lok Dal’s Tabassum Hasan (former Bahujan Samaj Party MP from Kairana in 2009) who is also supported by the Congress, the Samajwadi Party and also claims the support of the Bahujan Samaj Party.
Kairana parliamentary constituency has five assembly segments -- Shamli, Thana Bhawan and Kairana in Shamli district, and Gangoh and Nakur in Saharanpur district.
Similarly, the by-election to Noorpur assembly seat was necessitated by the death of sitting BJP MLA Lokendra Singh Chauhan in a road accident in February.
In Noorpur, the BJP has fielded Avani Singh, wife of deceased MLA Lokendra Chauhan, as its candidate, while the SP has given ticket to Naeemul Hasan.
According to the Election Commission, there are 16.09 lakh voters in Kairana - 8.73 lakh male voters and 7.36 lakh female voters. Noorpur Assembly constituency has 3.06 lakh voters.
In Kairana, there are 12 candidates in the fray, while in Noorpur there are 10 candidates in the field. Counting of votes in both the seats will take place on May 31.
The Lok Sabha and assembly byolls in northeastern and eastern states passed off peacefully amid tight security with 70 per cent voters exercising their franchise for the lone parliamentary seat in Nagaland, election commission sources said.
Bye-elections were also held for assembly seats in Ampati in Meghalaya, Gomia and Silli in Jharkhand, Maheshtala in West Bengal and Jokikhat in Bihar.
According to election commission sources, there were no reports of any untoward incident from anywhere.
They said, the voting percentage in Ampati was 90.42 per cent, in Gomia and Silli it was 62.61 and 75.5 per cent respectively, while 70 per cent voting was recorded till 5 pm in Maheshtala, and Jokikhat registered 53 per cent polling till 5 pm.
The Lok Sabha bypoll in Nagaland was necessitated after Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, who is also the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party leader, resigned as member of Parliament in February, days before the assembly polls in the state.
In Monday’s Lok Sabha bypoll, the ruling People’s Democratic Alliance, which has the NDPP and the BJP as it major constituents, fielded former minister Tokheho Yepthomi as its candidate.
The opposition Naga People’s Front’s nominee is C Apok Jamir, who is being supported by Congress.
Ampati assembly in Meghalaya witnessed a triangular contest, where Miani D Shira, the daughter of Leader of Opposition Mukul Sangma, is the Congress candidate, Clement G Momin is the nominee of the ruling Meghalaya Democratic Alliance while Subhankar Koch is the Independent contestant.
The bye-election in this constituency was necessitated after Sangma resigned from the seat as he had won from Songsak seat as well in the February 27 assembly election.
Polling in Gomia and Silli seats ended at 3 pm as they fall in Left Wing Extremism affected areas, sources said.
The bypolls were necessitated following the conviction of their respective MLAs Yogendra Mahto and Amit Mahto, both of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.
In Gomia assembly seat, though there is a total of 13 candidates, the main contest is between BJP’s Madhavlal Singh, All Jharkhand Students Union’s Lambodar Mahto and JMM’s Babita Devi, the wife of Yogendra Mahto.
In Silli of the 10 candidates, the main contest is between the former deputy chief minister and AJSU president Sudesh Mahto, and Seema Mahto, the wife of disqualified MLA Amit Mahto.
Bypoll in West Bengal’s Maheshtala assembly seat was held following the death of Trinamool Congress MLA Kasturi Das.
The party has fielded her husband Dulal Das, while the BJP, which is trying to emerge as the main challenger to the rulign TMC, has fielded Sujit Ghosh, a former Central Bureau of Investigation joint director. The Left has nominated Prabhat Chowdhury.
Bihar’s Jokikhat assembly bypoll, necessitated following the resignation of sitting MLA Sarfaraz Alam, is being viewed as a test of strength between Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal-United and Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal.
In the multi-cornered fight for the seat, the main contestants were RJD’s Shahnawaz Alam, the younger son of the party’s late leader Taslimuddin, and JD-U’s Murshid Alam.
Six Independents and Ghousul Azam, who represents controversial Madhepura MP Pappu Yadav’s fledgling outfit Jan Adhikar Party are also in fray.
The Shahkot assembly constituency, where a bypoll is underway, witnessed 73 per cent polling, an official said.
There was no report of any violence during the polling, the official added.
Polling to the Shahkot bypoll commenced at 7 am. The state’s ruling Congress is hoping to maintain its winning momentum while the opposition Akali Dal is trying to retain the seat.
The Shahkot bypoll was necessitated by the demise of Akali MLA Ajit Singh Kohar in February this year.
The Congress has fielded Hardev Singh Laddi while Akali Dal has given ticket to Ajit Singh Kohar’s son Naib Singh Kohar. The Aam Aadmi Party has nominated Rattan Singh Kakkar Kalan for the Shahkot bypoll.
There was enthusiasm among the voters who were coming out to exercise their franchise in the morning. However, there were reports that some polling booths witnessed deserted look as voters did not venture out in the afternoon because of hot weather conditions.
In the south, tight security and a changed political equation post Congress-Janata Dal-Secular alliance marked voting for the Rajarajeshwarinagar bypoll in the state. The election for the seat was deferred earlier due to seizure of 9,564 Election Photo Identity Cards from an apartment.
In Kerala, people braved heavy rains to vote for Chengannur assembly bypoll, where a fierce contest was expected between the three fronts of the Left, the BJP and the Congress.
About 74.6 per cent voting was recorded in the bypoll.
The by-election was necessitated due to the death of sitting MLA K K Ramachandran Nair of Communist Party of India-Marxist in January this year.
All three major contenders for electoral laurel -- Saji Cheriyan (CPI-M), D Vijayakumar (Congress) and P S Sreedharan Pillai (BJP) -- expressed confidence about their victory.
Over 53 per cent polling was recorded in the bypolls to the Tharali assembly seat in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district.
By the end of the day, 53.43 per cent voters had cast their votes, District Information Officer in-charge of the election control room G S Bisht said.
Though largely peaceful, the bypoll was boycotted at Devsari village in the Dewal area by voters to protest against their demand for a road not being fulfilled, he said.
Polling for the reserved seat went at a slow pace initially.
There are 1,02,569 voters in the constituency, including 50,991 men, 48,301 women and 3,277 service voters, he said.
The contest is straight on the seat between traditional rivals the BJP and the Congress with the former looking to retain it and the latter trying to stage a comeback.
Maganlal Shah of the BJP, whose death earlier this year necessitated the bypolls, had won in 2017 defeating his nearest rival Jeetram.