The Lok Sabha elections got to a delayed start in several parts of Tamil Nadu due to technical glitches in the electronic voting machines (EVMs) and VVPATs. The polls wound up with a streak of violence in several constituencies.
Poll officials started mock voting to check the functioning of the EVMs by 6 am and reset the machines for voting. In several polling stations in districts including Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai, Thanjavur, and Ramanathapuram, at least 10 polling stations in each district malfunctioned and the polling delayed for about nearly one hour.
According to chief electoral officer Satyabrata Sahoo, as many as 384 EVMs and 692 VVPATs were replaced in polling booths across the State. Apart from the technical glitch, several people in Chennai, Coimbatore, Dindigul, Tiruvarur, and Kanyakumari said their names were not there on the voters’ list. “We have been residing in the same place for decades and have been voting in the same polling booth. Suddenly, our names are not on the list. We do not know the reason and the officials could not explain,” a woman from Thoothoor fishermen hamlet said.
In certain places, people were shocked to know that their votes had already been cast. A woman in Karambakkam in Chennai went to the polling station at 8 am and waited for her turn to vote. But, when she went into the room, the presiding officer had told her that she had already cast her vote.
“I was waiting in the line since 8 am. How could someone else cast my vote. When I raised the issue, no one was ready to answer and I was chased out of the room,” said the woman, on condition of anonymity. Similarly, in Arnathangi of Ramanathapuram constituency, a woman staged a sit-in protest urging the officials to allow her to cast her vote. In some places, boothe agents raised objection to certain voters exercising their franchise.
I came from Bangalore to vote in Chennai. Booth 92. My name is there on the list. I reached the voting booth. And only in the last officers list my name is marked with a little red pen – X. And there are at least 55 other complaints from this area.
— Mahima A Jain (@theplainjain) April 18, 2019
Incidentally, in Tirunelveli, a voter called Manikandan, who came to know that his vote had already been cast, reasoned it out with the officials and managed to exercise his franchise under rule 49(P) of the conduct of election rules, 1961. In the afternoon, as the voting picked up, violence erupted in several places across the State. Clashes broke out in Ariyalur of Chidambaram constituency between VCK and AIADMK party cadres after the latter damaged the symbol of VCK leader Thol. Thirumavalavan.
Workers threw stones on houses which had the pot symbol pained on the walls. The police rushed to the spot and used mild force to disperse the crowd. The police stepped up deployment to prevent untoward incidents.
In the Gudiyatham assembly constituency, clashes broke out between AIADMK and DMK cadres as the former allegedly campaigned near polling stations. In Arani constituency, AIADMK and AMMK cadres clashed in five places. One person sustained severe head injuries in the ensuing lathi-charge. Late in the evening, clashes broke out between AMMK and BJP cadres in Kanyakumari and five people sustained stab injuries.