Altogether 74.61 per cent voters exercised their franchise in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections Wednesday, a rise of around two per cent compared to the previous polls.
The figure may go up, state Chief Electoral Officer V L Kantha Rao said. In the 2013 Assembly polls, it was 72.69 per cent, he added.
Polling was marred by complaints of faulty Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines. Rao said 1,145 EVMs and 1,545 VVPATs were replaced after complaints of technical snags.
Polling was held between 8 am and 5 pm in 227 seats, while in three assembly segments – Lanji, Paraswada and Baihar – in the Naxal-affected Balaghat district, the voting time was between 7 am to 3 pm,
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.
In Naxal-affected Baihar district, the percentage was 75.05, in Lanjhi 79.07 per cent and in Paraswada it was 80.05 per cent, he said.
Those who were in queue at the polling booths till 5 pm were allowed to vote, he said, adding such polling 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 said.
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 in the city,” he said.
Chief Election Commissioner O P Rawat said in Delhi that there are provisions for the extension of time and local officers (in Madhya Pradesh) were empowered to take a call on the issue.
Earlier in the day, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, BJP candidate from Budhni seat, and his wife Sadhana Singh cast their votes at his native village Jait, a part of his Assembly constituency.
After voting, Chauhan said, “I am hopeful that the BJP will win the election with a huge mandate.”
Appealing to the people of the state to vote in huge numbers, the Chief Minister said: “This vote is not for making a person an MLA but for the good future and development of the state.
“The way in which I have cast my vote along with my family, I would request people of the state to vote for the BJP for development.”
He said that every person’s vote would ensure women empowerment and development. It would make the villages smart, change the faces of cities, and help in bringing investment, besides providing good infrastructure, and improved irrigation — from 40 lakh hectares to 80 lakh hectares.
Kamal Nath cast his vote in Chhindwara district while Scindia, the party’s state campaign committee chief, exercised his franchise in Gwalior.
Stakes are high for the BJP as the Congress is going all out to wrest power from the saffron party, which has been ruling the state for 15 years.
It is believed that the election is a direct political battle between the BJP and the Congress although the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) are also in the fray.
It is also a major battle between former state Congress chief Arun Yadav and the incumbent Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan in Budhni.
There were 2,907 candidates in the fray. The BJP has fielded candidates in all 230 seats, while the Congress is contesting in 229 seats leaving one seat, Jatara in Tikamgarh district, for Sharad Yadav-led Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD).
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, the official said.
In the last assembly elections, of the total 230 seats, the BJP had won 165 seats, Congress 58, BSP four and independents three.
The counting of votes for Madhya Pradesh, along with four other poll-bound states of Rajasthan, Telangana, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram, will take place on December 11.
(With PTI inputs)