The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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EVM chaos in Godda bypolls

Godda, Dec. 12: Most political parties, fearful of the impact of a low turnout, traded charges of rigging in today’s byelection to the Lok Sabha seat.

The polling, seen as referendum for the two-year-old Babulal Marandi regime, ended without any major incident of violence but with most parties levelling charges of “organised rigging” and reports of widespread trouble over the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs).

Chief electoral officer A.K. Pandey said in Ranchi that the voter turnout was 59 per cent. However, reports from the ground indicate that less than 35 per cent voting took place in urban areas and about 40 per cent in rural areas.

The poll failed to generate much response among men, but women were seen in large numbers at polling stations, particularly in the rural segments.

A low turnout in the elections — necessitated by the death of BJP leader Yagdambi Prasad Yadav — does not bode well for the party, especially with voting trends indicating an erosion of its vote bank.

The polls began with confusion over the functioning of EVMs, with voters having to wait for hours while the problem was solved. Many people boycotted the polls in protest.

In some places, people alleged that their names were not on the voter lists. However, Godda returning officer K.K. Khandelwal said “only one such complaint” had been received.

The JMM and the Congress held the officials responsible for the low turnout. “Poor people, who do not have any document to establish their identities, did not go to cast their votes,” JMM leader Shibu Soren told The Telegraph over phone.

A few incidents of violence marred the polling. Three people were injured when two groups in Jasidih police station area threw bombs at each other. Action has also been initiated against Deoghar MLA Suresh Paswan of the RJD after complaints of booth-capturing were lodged against him, according to the Deoghar deputy commissioner.

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