Faulty EVMs: Keep your bedsheets handy for next elections; here is why

As hundreds of voters patiently waited to cast their votes in the blistering heat while dysfunctional electronic voting machines (EVMs) were replaced in three parliamentary constituencies in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, the by-polls on Monday saw a moderate turnout of bedsheets to tackle the problem of EVMs being damaged from extreme heat, harsh sunlight and dust.

The local polling stations around the constituencies took their own little precautions like covering the windows with bedsheets, cloth cover near the EVMs and even installing fans to protect the machines from extreme heat or dust.

The poll panel said less than one per cent of voting machines, but over 11 per cent of VVPATs were replaced, even as it sought to put the blame on "extreme heat" and mishandling by some polling staff.

Of the total 2,097 EVMs deployed, 156 machines in different areas of the constituency malfunctioned, but the officials were quick to tackle it, said Palghar Collector Prashant Narnaware.

"The sensors of these EVMs are extremely sensitive to heat, light and dust pollution. We were alerted on this by the Election Commission (EC) beforehand. We faced problems even during the first level checks carried out on these machines a few days ago," he said.

"Anticipating a 15 per cent error margin in the machines, we had already ordered 15 per cent more than our requirements - or around 2,608 EVMs - and had sent them to various Assembly segments in Palghar for quick replacement," Narnaware added.

The collectorate had demanded a team of 100 engineers to handle the problems that could crop up in the EVMs, and the EC had sent 96 engineers who were distributed evenly in the Assembly segments, he said.

In Bhandara-Gondiya, there have been complaints of more than 100 EVMs malfunctioning even as all opposition parties and ruling ally Shiv Sena cried foul. 

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. 

Sena MP Sanjay Raut said the glitch is nothing but a manifestation of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis' recent controversial statement on 'Saam, Daam, Dand, Bhed'.                                                       

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".

Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) President Prakash Ambedkar demanded cancellation of the elections in Bhandara-Gondiya while Congress state spokesperson Sachin Sawant alleged large-scale irregularities.

Congress state spokesperson Sachin Sawant alleged large-scale irregularities as the BJP was attempting to make the Lok Sabha bypolls 'My-polls'.

Complaints of dysfunctional EVMs were also reported during bypolls in Kairana Lok Sabha and Noorpur Assembly constituencies in Uttar Pradesh. A multi-party delegation led by the Congress approached the EC to demand a repoll in the affected booths.

The delegation comprised Congress leader R P N Singh, Samajwadi Party's Ram Gopal Yadav and Rashtriya Lok Dal's Chaudhury Ajit Singh.

"There were reports from Kairana and Noorpur constituencies and elsewhere where bypolls were held that EVMs malfunctioned in hundreds. In Kairana, we have reports of hundreds of machines that malfunctioned," the Congress leader told reporters.

"We have demanded that wherever it took more than one-and-a-half hours for the EVMs to be changed, a repoll should be held in those booths tomorrow (Tuesday) or day after (Wednesday)," he added.

The defective machines hit polling severely, with barely 25 per cent of the electorate casting their votes by 2 p.m. in both constituencies.

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, the polling percentage was 54.17 per cent till 6 p.m, while In Maharashtra, about 40 per cent polling was estimated till 6 p.m. in the Bhandara-Gondiya Parliamentary constituency. In Palghar, the polling percentage was around 47 till 6 p.m.