Ranchi: Cardinal Telesphore P. Toppo, head of the Catholic Church in Jharkhand, returned home without exercising his franchise in the municipal corporation elections held in Ranchi, the state capital.
Voter list blunders, malfunctioning Electronic Voting Machines, bogus voting and sporadic clashes marked the election held on April 16, reports The Telegraph newspaper.
The cardinal, a resident of Ward 7, always cast his vote at the St Aloysius High School, close to his residence on the Camille Bulcke Path.
When he visited the polling booth on the campus, he did not find his name on the voter list. “It seems after delimitation, the cardinal has been allocated some other booth, which he could not find because there was no one to guide him,” the cardinal’s secretary R.A. Toppo said.
The polling was slow in the morning with just 11 percent casting votes between 7 and 11 across 808 booths.
The turnout improved to 49.3 percent by 5pm. In 2013, the civic poll footfall was 34.13 percent.
Delimitation of Ranchi Municipal Corporation wards, which had resulted in random shuffling of voters and their designated booths, seemed to have had a negative bearing on the turnout.
Leader of the Opposition and former chief minister Hemant Soren, who is now a resident of Ward 25 instead of Ward 26, managed to find his new booth at Kalyan Vikas Samiti Bhavan in Harmu after a frantic 30-minute search.
“My old booth was at St Francis School in Harmu and I wasn’t informed about the change. Is this how an election is conducted? This is complete mismanagement,” Hemant said, after finally casting his vote with wife Kalpana.
The JMM leader added that ideally after delimitation, the government should have circulated fresh voter lists and held a special campaign to let people know about their new wards and booths.
State election commissioner N.N. Pandey conceded “delimitation inconveniences” on poll day and said the panel would have to evolve a mechanism to prevent the same in the future. “The election remained largely peaceful. Complaints of malfunctioning of EVMs were quickly resolved,” Pandey said, adding that the 34 urban local bodies had together polled 65.15 per cent votes, an increase of two per cent since 2013.
Voter list vexation apart, stray clashes were reported from a few places.
Guru Nanak Higher Secondary School in Hindpiri hosted four polling booths under Ward 23, where supporters of candidates engaged in fisticuffs accusing each other of bogus voting. At Bethesda Girls’ High School on Church Road (Ward 15), voters alleged that supporters of a councillor candidate prevented them from exercising their franchise.
Near Jagannathpur middle school under Ward 37, police had to lathicharge when a group of youths took to stone-pelting. SDO-cum-returning officer Anjali Yadav reached the spot and ensured the situation remained in control.
Allegations of bogus voting, impersonation and other election malpractices poured in at the office of the state election commission.
At Ranchi Women’s College (Ward 19), polling agents of JMM were seen carrying party flags, in violation of the model code and conduct. “I informed the commission and sent a photograph too,” said voter Sanjay Kumar Mahto.