[Police deployment outside ATT High School - one of the polling stations in Malegaon where voting to elect new civic body was held on Wednesday May 24, 2017 (ummid.com photo)]
Maelgaon: Amid allegations and counter allegations of tampering in Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), political parties in Malegaon are in a fix about the poll outcome due to "EVM Confusion" - a new phenomenon reported on the polling day in the city where voting to elect the new civic body was held on Wednesday.
This was for the first time a voter had to cast four votes. Accordingly, it was speculated that there would be four Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) marked with labels A, B, C and D with names and symbol of each candidate written on them.
However, when the electors went to cast their votes, they found just 02 and 03 EVMs. There were large scale confusion as names and symbols of candidates from A and B of a ward were adjusted on a single machine. Names of candidates contesting from C and D wards were mentioned on second machine. A third machine was use at some places where number of candidates were more.
"I had been told that there will be four EVMs and I would need to register one vote in each machine. But when I went to cast my vote, I found just two EVMs with names of candidates from all four A, B, C and D wards adjusted one below the other.
"For a few second I could not understand what to do. I tried reading names of candidates but failed. Then I just searched the symbols and cast my votes", Ishtiyaq Ahmed, a traders, said.
Situation for women especially the older ones was worst.
"I had never expected that I would need my glasses to read the names. Hence I went to vote without them. But as soon as I entered the polling booth, I realised I did a blunder by coming without glasses. Names written on the EVMs were so narrow that I fear I could not have read them even with my glasses", Sakina Shaikh, a house wife, said while talking to ummid.com.
Polling officers and staff on duty also said that the voters were confused and they needed assistance for casting their votes.
"A voter would enter the polling booth, and confused would come out immediately asking for help. It was a routine at almost all polling stations", Saud Ansari, a polling officer, said.
Against this backdrop, political parties, though confident of their performance in the election, are also worried that the "EVM confusion" may lead to some uncertain and unexpected result.
"We had tried our best to make up the minds of voters and convince them to vote for us. But the confusion on the polling day was unexpected for us. We were totally out of any clue and couldn't do anything to hanlde the situation", Bulund Iqbal, President of Janata Dal (S), said.
Asif Anam of Congress agreeing with Bulund Iqbal feared that the EVM confusion on the polling day could disturb the situation across the parties.
"We had been told by many voters that they were confused and in a hush ended casting their votes to any one", he said.
The hallmark of the Malegaon Municipal Corporation (MMC) election was however the unprecedented arrangements the local election department and police had made. So strict was the department and so heavy was the deployment of the police force that open and large bogus voting, a common phenomenon in Malegaon, became impossible.
"We had made it clear in advance to all political parties that ration card or any other document without photos will not be acceptable. Then there were preemptive measures taken by the police and their heavy deployment in polling stations that made things easy on the polling day", Ravendra Jagtap, Presiding Officer and MMC Commissioner said.
"The overall voting percentage in the city was 59.52%. It was some 2.5% less than the 2012 MMC elections", he said.
Voting on Wednedsay was held in Malegaon to elect 83 members. The Malegaon civic body has a total of 84 members from 21 wards. Elections were for 83 seats as Keshwari Begum of Congress was declared unopposed.
A total of 373 candidates from Congress, NCP-Janata Dal (S) Combine, AIMIM, BJP, Shiv Sena and Independents were in the fray.
Counting of votes will be held at five places on Friday May 26.
"Counting of votes will begin at 10:00 am on Friday and we expect to complete its by afternoon", Jagtap said.