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EVMs Malfunction in Muslim, Dalit Populated Areas in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra (Image courtesy: Al Jazeera English, Flickr)

Bypolls held on Monday (28 May 2018) in several Lok Sabha and assembly constituencies reported malfunctioning of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and glitches in paper trail machines (Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail machines or VVPATs). Bypolls were held in nine assembly and four Lok Sabha constituencies across 10 states on Monday. Votes will be counted on May 31. The Election Commission said 96 balloting units and 84 control units of EVMs and 1,202 VVPATs had to be replaced.

Kairana Lok Sabha and Noorpur assembly seats of Uttar Pradesh reported both EVMs and VVPATs failing right after polling started at 7 a.m. In Kairana, Tabassum Hasan, the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) candidate is being backed by other opposition parties against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate, Mriganka Singh. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Samajwadi Party (SP) and Congress are backing RLD candidate Tabassum Hasan in an attempt to strenghthen the Dalit-Muslim equations in the constituency. There are at least 500,000 Muslims and 250,000 Dalits apart from substantial number of Jats in Kairana constituency.

‘Most of the complaints of technical glitches are coming from Dalit- and Muslim-dominated areas. The BJP leaders are adopting every tactic to stop my victory but people will foil their plans,’ Hindustan Times reported Hasan as saying. She submitted a constituency-wise list of over 150 faulty EVMs to the EC.

RLD spokesperson Sunil Rohta said that the faulty EVMs seemed like an attempt ‘to keep voting percentage low in Muslim, Dalit and Jat- dominated areas where people are rallying behind Tabassum Hasan.’ SP spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary said that 140 EVMs were tampered with in Noorpur. Chaudhary said that it was an attempt by the BJP to ‘avenge its defeat in the earlier bypolls in Gorakhpur and Phoolpur.’

However, EC said in a press statement that news reports of large scale failure of EVMs and VVPATs were ‘an exaggerated projection of reality.’

Voting in the Palghar and Bhandara-Gondia Lok Sabha bypolls in Maharashtra also reported malfunctioning of EVMs. Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh leader and former MP Prakash Ambedkar said around 450 (EVMs) malfunctioned. According to a livemint report, Bahujan Vikas Aghadi leader Hitendra Thakur said, ‘the entire election commission machinery is working on behalf of the BJP in Palghar There were phone calls from the office of a local BJP functionary in Palghar to housing societies about making arrangements for snacks and refreshments for member-voters.’

In Palghar, the bypoll was necessitated following the death of sitting BJP MP Chintaman Wanaga. The seat is reserved for Scheduled Tribes (ST).

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