The BJP is leading in Palghar and Bhandara-Gondiya Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra, early leads show. But in Kairana, the united opposition has pulled ahead. In UP’s Noorpur assembly seat, the Samajwadi Party candidate is ahead. Polling in the two parliamentary seats on Monday was marred by complaints of faulty EVMs or electronic vote machines at many booths. Repolling was held in 73 polling stations of Kairana and 49 booths in Bhandara-Gondiya yesterday. Nearly 20 per cent of VVPAT or Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail machines, which eject slips confirming voters’ choices, were replaced on both seats.
- In Kairana, where it is a direct contest between a united opposition and the BJP, 384 faulty VVPATs were replaced. Both sides took their complaints of malfunctioning machines to the Election Commission, after which repolling was ordered.
- Tabassum Hasan, the opposition candidate belonging to the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) in Kairana, had even alleged that faulty machines in Muslim and Dalit-dominated areas – claimed to be opposition strongholds – had not been replaced. The allegations were rejected by the district magistrate.
- The Kairana by-election, a seat BJP won in 2014, is seen as a testing ground for opposition unity ahead of the 2019 elections in a state that sends the maximum number of lawmakers to parliament. After sworn rivals Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BJP) came together to win bypolls to the BJP bastions of Gorakhpur and Phulpur earlier this year, the Congress and RLD have joined the bandwagon in Kairana.
- Amid widespread failure of vote machines, opposition leaders like Akhilesh Yadav of SP and Praful Patel of the NCP, which has fielded its candidate in Bhandara-Gondiya, renewed their pitch for using ballot papers instead in the 2019 polls. The Election Commission, which has blamed the malfunction partly on the extreme heat, has ruled it out.
- Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat told NDTV that the machines are new and had been deployed for the first time, and would stabilize by 2019. He also apportioned blame to the training of election staff to use the machines.
- Bypoll to Maharashtra’s Palghar Lok Sabha seat, which was held by the BJP, has further strained its ties with ally Shiv Sena after it fielded the late BJP lawmaker’s son. The only parliamentary seat in Nagaland, vacated by BJP ally who is now Chief Minister, also voted in Monday’s by-election.
- Polling was also held for 10 assembly seats in nine states, Noorpur (Uttar Pradesh), Jokihat (Bihar), Tharali (Uttarakhand), Gomia and Silli (Jharkhand), Maheshtala (West Bengal), Ampati (Meghalaya), Palus Kadegaon (Maharashtra), Shahkot (Punjab) and Chengannur (Kerala).
- In Bihar’s Jokihat, the bypoll is seen as a prestige battle for Chief Minister Nitish Kumar after the sitting JD(U) lawmaker quit the party and joined the RJD after Mr Kumar joined hands with the BJP last year.
- In Maheshtala, a seat held by the Trinamool, the bypoll result will be significant as the ruling party anticipates its vote share going down, though it seems confident of a win. The BJP expects to shore up its vote count in a state where it’s keen on getting a toehold ahead of 2019. Polling, which took place under the watch of paramilitary forces, was peaceful as opposed to violence during the panchayat elections a fortnight ago.
- It is a three-way contest in Kerala’s Chengannur, where the opposition Congress is keen on reclaiming ground it lost to the ruling CPM two years ago. After breaching the Left bastion in Tripura earlier this year, the BJP is hoping to do better than in 2016 when it won nearly 16 per cent votes in the assembly polls.