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Voters take it easy

Malfunctioning Electronic Voting Machines, a chief minister searching for her own polling booth and a holiday mood marked the voting in Delhi on Monday. Clashes were reported in Moti Nagar and Mehrauli.

india Updated: Dec 01, 2003 15:37 IST

Malfunctioning electronic voting machines (EVMs), a chief minister searching for her own polling booth and a holiday mood marked the voting in Delhi on Monday.

As with all elections, there were plenty of interesting sidelights:

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit had problems finding the right polling booth. Dikshit, a candidate in the Gole Market constituency in the heart of the city, reached booth 10 at Tilak Marg polling station at around 10.30 a.m. She was, however, surprised not to find her name on the list voters there. Frantic checks showed she was scheduled to vote at the nearby booth 14.

At some polling stations, election staff was not prepared for voters who turned up sharp at 8 a.m., the time polling was to start. "Please wait for a few minutes, we need to get set," said one official in Saket in south Delhi.

Congress party president Sonia Gandhi had to wait for 15 minutes before officials at the Nirman Bhavan polling centre could activate the EVM.

Some EVMs gave officials problems. Deputy Chief Electoral Officer S.S. Ghankrokta said there were several complaints about faulty machines and this affected the voting percentage in certain constituencies.

Around 12,500 EVMs have been commissioned for Delhi's 70 constituencies. Officials said 2,500 machines were brought from neighbouring Haryana state as some constituencies had over 16 candidates in the fray.

Thanks to the holiday mood, streets were almost deserted and there were fewer vehicles and buses on the roads. Most buses plied near empty. Election agents of various political parties were the most exuberant lot, spotted near polling stations across the city.

Even as the morning nip kept voters away, the agents were ready ahead of the polling time. Adorned with caps and other accessories of their party, they handed out voter slips to keep track of how their candidates were fairing.

For a change, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress workers came together to protest about a polling centre being located within a green and white tent in the Matia Mahal constituency in Delhi's old quarters. The colours, they said, were the same as that of the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S). The constituency's incumbent legislator, Shoaib Iqbal, is a JD-S candidate.

But Congress and BJP workers clashed each other in one polling station of Moti Nagar constituency where BJP stalwart and chief ministerial hopeful Madan Lal Khurana is contesting.

There were minor irritants when policemen prevented voters from going to polling stations with mobile telephones, leading to squabbles. But the policemen stood their ground.

First Published: Dec 01, 2003 15:32 IST