On the evening of 23 February, an unexpected development shocked Maharashtra as counting for local body polls in the state was ending. Violence erupted in Panchavati in the heart of Nashik city following complaints of tampering of EVMs (electronic voting machines). The city BJP chief’s son was declared the winner from the ward, but the Shiv Sena claimed that the total of the votes received by each candidate exceeded the total number of votes cast. This led to clashes between Shiv Sena and BJP workers in the streets. Soon, mobs began vandalising and burning vehicles. Police had to resort to lathi-charge and firing in the air to disperse the crowd of 800 people. Nine policemen, as well as some local residents, were injured in the rampage.
A similar charge of EVM fraud swirled in Pune, only the reaction was thankfully non-violent. In Yerawada ward, 15 candidates from different political parties registered a complaint against the Returning Officer (RO), alleging “misappropriation” of EVMs during the counting of votes.
They claimed that a total of 33,289 votes were cast, but 43,324 votes were counted. They demanded a re-poll using ballot paper. A police complaint has been registered against the RO.
As the State Election Commission, which conducts local polls, turned down the demand for re-polling, a united opposition first held a protest meeting. As more cases emerged, they took out a mock funeral procession of replicas of EVMs on Tuesday, which were then symbolically cremated at the Vaikunth crematorium.