New Delhi, May 29: The by-elections to four Lok Sabha and ten Assembly seats were held across 10 states on Monday, amid complaints of dysfunctional Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) in three parliamentary constituencies in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. The Opposition parties including Congress, Samajwadi Party and others alleged that hundreds of EVMs were malfunctioned, particularly in Uttar Pradesh’s Kairana. However, the poll panel debunked the allegations and called it ‘an exaggerated projection of reality’.

It said that adequate number of reserve EVMs-VVPAT were kept and deployed in almost half hour where there were reports of non-functioning of the machines. The poll panel said the malfunctioning could be attributed to “first-time use by polling staff, extreme heat, placement of the machine under direct sunlight and mishandling during use”. The ECI also rebuffed the media reports of polling being cancelled in 35 booths in 11-Bhandara-Gondiya Parliamentary Constituency in Maharashtra and said that it was not based on facts.

It further said that it undertakes a comprehensive examination and root-cause analysis of all the defects observed in the machines through the Technical Experts Committee of the Commission.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Shirish Mohod said, “There have been certain cases of failure due to technical problems of EVMs and VVPATs during polling in 22-Palghar and 11-Bhandara-Gondiya Parliamentary constituencies which have been replaced.”

“These issues come up because of technical engineering problems and therefore, we keep reserve machines for replacement. Machines are replaced as and when required following a protocol. Polling is going on peacefully in both the constituencies,” he added.

All about elections and total turnout 

In Kairana the polling percentage was 54.17 per cent till 6 PM. Meanwhile, in the Noorpur Assembly segment of the state, the polling percentage was 61 till 6 PM. In Kairana, where the BJP is locked in an intense fight with combined opposition including the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress, there were reports of firing in Bhura village and skirmishes between supporters of the opposition-supported RLD candidate Tabassum Hasan and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s Mriganka Singh, daughter of late Hukum Singh, whose death necessitated the bypoll.

In Maharashtra, about 40 per cent polling was recorded till 6 PM in the Bhandara-Gondiya Parliamentary constituency.  The bypoll in Bhandara-Gondiya was necessitated after sitting BJP member Nana Patole quit the party in December 2017 and later joined the Congress. Meanwhile, in Palghar, the polling percentage was around 47 till 6 PM. The bypoll here were necessitated following the death of sitting MP Chintaman Vanga.

Senior Nationalist Congress Party leader Praful Patel alleged that “nearly 25 per cent of all the EVMs in Bhandara-Gondiya were defective or had malfunctioned”. EC officer in-charge Abhimanyu Kale told the media that around 156 EVMs were replaced or spares deployed. Hundreds of voters patiently waited to cast their votes in the blistering heat as the EVMs were replaced. Ruling ally Shiv Sena also strongly criticised the EC and the government for the glitches and claimed that these were reported mostly from the party’s strongholds. BJP’s Hemant Patle, who was earlier in the Shiv Sena, faces NCP’s Madhukar Kukde, who is supported by the Congress, while there were 18 others in the fray.

In Bihar, Jokihat Assembly seat saw nearly 55 per cent polling. Bypolls to Silli and Gomia Assembly constituencies in Jharkhand saw 75 per cent and 62 per cent voting, respectively.

In West Bengal, around 70 per cent of votes were cast till 5 p.m. for bypoll to the Maheshtala Assembly constituency. In Punjab, Shahkot Assembly constituency recorded over 73 per cent voting. Chengannur Assembly constituency in Kerala saw voting percentage of 77 per cent while Meghalya’s Ampati Assembly seat saw a high voter turn out of 90.42 per cent.

The bypoll to the Nagaland Parliamentary seat witnessed 75 per cent polling. The seat fell vacant as sitting member Neiphiu Rio resigned after being elected to the state Assembly and becoming Chief Minister.

The results of the elections will be declared on May 31.

(With inputs from agencies)