A violent opening for Lok Sabha polls

A violent opening for Lok Sabha polls

A security personnel stands guard as voters queue to cast their vote during the first phase of general elections, at a polling station in Meerut on Thursday. PTI

The first of the seven phases of polling for the Lok Sabha elections got under way on Thursday amid sporadic violent incidents, including an explosion triggered by Maoists in Maharashtra and the killing of two men in clashes between two political parties in Andhra Pradesh.

Miscreants damaged as many as 15 Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in separate incidents reported from six of the 20 states and Union Territories, where polling took place in the first phase.

Some of the EVMs and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) devices malfunctioned and had to be replaced. Polling did not take place at four stations in Gadchiroli-Chimur parliamentary constituency in Maharashtra due to deteriorating security situation in the hotbed of leftist extremism. With Maoist insurgents calling for a poll boycott, no one turned up to cast votes in 15 polling booths at Malkangiri in Odisha.

The voters, however, turned out in large numbers and registered 77% polling at the station at Shyamagiri Hills in Bastar Lok Sabha constituency in Chhattisgarh where the Maoists killed a BJP legislator along with four others on Tuesday. The overall polling percentage in Bastar — Chhattisgarh’s only LS constituency to go to polls on Thursday — was 56% till the Election Commission received the latest report.

Umesh Sinha, Senior Deputy Election Commissioner, said the poll panel would on Friday hold a meeting for a comprehensive review and order repoll if and where it would be necessary.

Ninety-one Lok Sabha constituencies across the country went to the polls in the first phase. The Election Commission set up over 1.70 lakh polling stations to facilitate 14.20 crore voters cast votes and decide the fate of 1,279 candidates. Assembly elections are also taking place simultaneously in four states.

All the 175,60 and 32 Assembly constituencies in Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim respectively went to polls on Thursday. Polling also took place in 28 of the 147 Assembly constituencies in Odisha.

A TDP worker and a YSRCP activist were killed while many, including Speaker Kodela Siva Prasada Rao, were injured in widespread violence in Andhra Pradesh. Alleged delay in replacing malfunctioning EVMs triggered protests by voters at some polling stations. Madhusudan Gupta, a candidate of the Janasena Party in Gooty constituency in the state, slammed the machine on the floor. He was later arrested.

Altogether six EVMs were damaged by miscreants in Andhra Pradesh, two in Manipur, five in Arunachal Pradesh, one in Bihar and another one on West Bengal.

The Election Commission said that the percentage of the EVMs and the VVPATs, which developed glitches and had to be replaced, was very low. Only 0.73 % of the total Ballot Units deployed across the 20 states and UTs, 0.61% of Control Units and 1.7% of the VVPATs had to be replaced, Deputy Election Commissioner Sudeep Jain said.

Amid boycott call by the separatists, militant threats and unprecedented security arrangements, 54% polling was recorded till 5 pm in the first phase of five-phase Lok Sabha elections in Jammu and Kashmir. The Jammu district recorded 69.7 percent voter turnout, Samba 73.8%, Rajouri 65.7% and Poonch 68% till 5 pm, the officials said. Baramulla recorded 22.3% turnout, Kupwara 47.7% and Bandipora 30.1%.

The EC officials told journalists in New Delhi in the evening that the polling percentage in two LS constituencies in West Bengal was 81% till the latest report came in, while it was 68% in five constituencies in Assam, 81.8% in one constituency in Tripura, 78.2% in one constituency in Manipur, 78% in one constituency in Nagaland and 60% in one constituency in Mizoram. The polling percentage in Sikkim, where assembly and Lok Sabha polls were held together, was reported to be 69% till 6 pm.

The officials of the poll panel said that the eight constituencies in Uttar Pradesh, four constituencies in Bihar and seven constituencies in Maharashtra recorded 63.69%, 50% and 56% turnout respectively, according to the latest report it received from the state.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal took to Twitter to allege that the names of several people were missing from electoral rolls. “What is happening EC? Are these elections fair?” he tweeted. “Anti-BJP votes 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?” he said in another tweet.

Eminent business personality Kiran Mazumdar Shaw’s mother was among those whose names were deleted from the electoral roll. “She is so upset I can't tell you becos she has been at the same address for 19 years. So much for 'verification',” tweeted Shaw.