MUMBAI: The Shiv Sena and the NCP today alleged malfunctioning in electronic voting machines (EVMs) during bypolls for Palghar and Bhandara-Gondia Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra.
Former Union minister Praful Patel claimed that almost 25 per cent of EVMs malfunctioned in the bypoll to Bhandara- Gondia Lok Sabha seat, while Sena leader Sanjay Raut said those in power were contesting elections while keeping the "key and remote of EVMs in their hands".
Patel sought to know why EVMs from Surat in Gujarat were used in the bypoll when similar machines were available in Maharashtra.
"EVMs were available in Maharashtra. What was the reason for bringing EVMs from Surat in Gujarat? We have expressed our doubts to the Election Commission," Patel told reporters in Gondia.
To say that EVMs malfunctioned due to excessive heat is shocking, the senior NCP leader said, and demanded re-polling soon in the booths where the voting machines failed.
"In developed countries like the US, Germany, France and Japan, the use of EVMs was stopped and they reverted to ballot papers," he said.
Patel, who lost from the Bhandara-Gondia constituency in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, said his party has raised the issue of the faulty EVMs with the Election Commission.
He also pointed out that the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines, which eject slips to confirm the voter's choice, were not functioning.
"As and when re-polling takes place, will we be able to count every slip?" he asked.
Meanwhile, Raut told reporters in Mumbai that manipulating EVMs was now a trend.
"Earlier, there used to be booth capturing and bogus voting. Now, some people hold the key and remote control of EVMs in their hands and contest elections," he said.
"This is a warning bell for the country. This EVM scam is taking place because you (BJP) are in power. That is why outdated EVM machines are brought in," the Sena leader said.
Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee chief Ashok Chavan said over 250 EVMs and VVPATs had malfunctioned, which was a suspicious development and this should be probed.
The BJP candidate for the Palghar Lok Sabha seat, Rajendra Gavit, demanded that the polling time be extended in view the faulty EVMs in some booths.
Gavit's poll representative submitted a memorandum to election officials in Palghar, seeking extension of the polling time due to malfunctioning of EVMs and VVPAT machines in some booths.
The counting of votes will take place on May 31.
In Bhandara-Gondia, the BJP and the NCP have locked horns in the bypoll, 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 in Vidarbha in 2014 by defeating 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.
In Palghar, the bypoll was necessitated following the death of BJP's Chintaman Wanaga. The BJP's bickering ally Shiv Sena has fielded the late MP's son Srinivas in a bid to garner the sympathy vote.
The BJP has put up former Congress minister Rajendra Gavit. The Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA) led by Vasai-Virar strongman Hitendra Thakur 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, and former MP Damu Shingada (Congress) are also contesting in a multi-cornered fight from the seat.