Bhopal: Madhya Pradesh on Wednesday registered a record 75 per cent voter turnout for the state Assembly polls that was marred by complaints of faulty EVMs with the BJP looking for a fourth straight term in a tough battle with a resurgent Congress which is eyeing a comeback after 15 years.
The voting figures in the one-phase polls for 230 seats, which was peaceful, was 74.61 per cent and it is likely to go up after the final tally, poll officials said. The previous highest was in the 2013 Assembly polls when the turnout was 72.69 per cent.
Voters turned out in large numbers in three constituencies in Naxal-affected Balaghat district with the tally being 75.05 per cent in Baihar, 79.07 per cent in Lanjhi and 80.05 per cent in Paraswada, officials said.
Polling in the state was marred by complaints of faulty Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVVPAT) machines.
The state Chief Electoral Officer V L Kantha Rao told reporters that 1,145 EVMs and 1,545 VVPATs were replaced after complaints of technical snags.
About 2.5 per cent (polling) machines were replaced, Rao said, adding this percentage was around two per cent in other states where elections were held recently.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who is seeking a fourth term, and his wife Sadhana Singh cast their votes at his native village Jait, which is part of his Budhni Assembly constituency.
Polling was held between 8 am and 5 pm in 227 seats, while in naxal affected areas of Lanji, Paraswada and Baihar the voting time was between 7 am and 3 pm.
Those who were in the queue at the polling booths till 5 pm were allowed to vote, Rao said, adding polling there was underway at 2,200 polling stations.
“There was no demand for re-polling. Poll officials received 386 complaints and all of them were resolved,” he added.
Three employees died due to “health reasons” while performing poll duty in Dhar, Indore and Guna districts, he said.
At Gadhpura village in Bhind district, a person was injured in violence but it was not poll-related, he said. The incident happened “far from the booth” and was related to enmity between two groups, he added.
On reports that some EVMs were found in a hotel, Rao said, “We got information that a sector officer in Shujalpur was staying in a hotel along with ballot machines. On getting information, a team of officers reached the hotel and seized the machine. The officer concerned was removed (from poll duty) and the polling team was sent along with a new sector officer.”
Leaders of Congress, which is in a straight fight with BJP to win the crucial election in the central Indian state, claimed that EVMs at many places malfunctioned.
“There were several complaints that EVMs at many places malfunctioned. We had requested the Election Commission that voting time in these polling booths should be extended to compensate for the delay,” Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia said. The Commission should compensate for time wasted in replacing EVMs by extending polling time, the Guna MP said.
State Congress president Kamal Nath said there were reports from across the state that EVMs did not work at many places. “This affected polling. Long queues were witnessed…” he said.
Chief Election Commissioner O P Rawat said in Delhi there are provisions for the extension of time and local officers (in Madhya Pradesh) were empowered to take a call on the issue.
Nath cast his vote in Chhindwara district while Scindia, the party’s state campaign committee chief, exercised his franchise in Gwalior.
There were 2,899 candidates in the fray. The state has 5.04 crore eligible voters. Altgether 3,00,782 government employees were on poll duty and 65,341 polling stations were set up for polling, which was peaceful, Rao said.