Mumbai: Voting in the Palghar and Bhandara-Gondia Lok Sabha by-elections in Maharashtra was on Monday marred by reported malfunctioning of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) in some booths. Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh leader and former MP Prakash Ambedkar said around 450 EVMs malfunctioned.
Besides, around 15,000 voters from Mali Ali, Mavanda, Navale and Nandanvan villages in Palghar’s Vasai tehsil boycotted polling, citing lack of development in their area.
Bahujan Vikas Aghadi leader Hitendra Thakur claimed that “the entire election commission machinery is working on behalf of the BJP in Palghar”.
There were phone calls from the office of a local BJP functionary in Palghar to housing societies about making arrangements for snacks and refreshments for member-voters, Thakur said.
Earlier, voting began at 7 AM and there was no untoward incident at any polling booth so far, police said.
Voting will conclude at 4 PM and the counting of votes will take place on 31 May.
Around 14% polling was reported for the Bhandara-Gondia
seat till 11 AM. In Palghar, around 7% electorate cast their votes till 9 AM.
In Palghar, the by-poll was necessitated following the death of sitting BJP MP Chintaman Wanaga. The BJP’s bickering ally Shiv Sena has fielded the late MP’s son, Srinivas Wanaga, in a bid to garner the sympathy vote.
The BJP has put up former Congress minister Rajendra Gavit and the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi is also in the fray with the nomination of its ex-MP Baliram Jadhav.
Kiran Raja Gahla of the CPI(M), which has a base in Talasari and Dahanu areas, and former MP Damu Shingada (Congress) are also contesting in a multi-cornered fight from the Palghar seat, reserved for Scheduled Tribes (ST).
The Sena had earlier accused the BJP of distributing cash to voters.
During a rally, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray played an audio clip wherein Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis purportedly exhorted the party cadre to win the elections “by all means possible.”
Fadnavis had said the audio recording was doctored.
An editorial in the Sena mouthpiece Saamana today said its nominee will win the Palghar seat, despite the BJP roping in UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in the poll campaign.
“Lord Ram will emerge from the ballot box, wielding bow and arrow and win this seat,” it said.
The constituency includes extended suburbs of Mumbai like Vasai, Virar, Nalasopara and Palghar in the newly-created Palghar district.
In Bhandara-Gondia, the BJP and the NCP have locked horns in the by-poll, being held after the resignation of BJP MP Nana Patole.
Patole, a leader of the powerful OBC Kunbi community, had switched side from the Congress to the BJP and was elected as an MP from the constituency, located in the Vidarbha region, in 2014 by defeating former Union minister and NCP heavyweight Praful Patel.
The NCP, which has allied with the Congress, has fielded former BJP MLA Madhukar Kukde, against BJP’s Hemant Patle, who belongs to the Powar community and is also a former legislator.