In what could be one of the most unexpected poll-related incidences of violence, a group of over-vigilant villagers in Masabinal village of Basavanna Bagevadi constituency in Vijayapura district vandalised EVMs and VVPATs on Wednesday, 10 May — polling day for the Karnataka Assembly elections 2023.
Following rumours, the villagers presumed that the sector office and its officials had colluded with the “wrong people” and were “changing” an EVM machine at one of the polling booths.
The truth? An extra, reserve EVM machine was being handed over to the sector officer, Mallappa Hanumanthappa Yerieri, by the Election Commission of India (ECI) only as a spare machine in case the primary machine developed any glitches.
Villagers vandalise vehicle
However, the villagers were not in a mood to listen to the sector officer or to the police personnel.
Around 20 to 25 villagers engaged in violence after stopping the sector’s officer’s vehicle that was carrying reserve EVMs.
The villagers vandalised the official car, along with electoral gadgets that were inside the vehicle, including EVM machines. The villagers damaged two control units and three Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPATs). They also manhandled the sector officer.
Based on the complaint from the sector officer, who is an additional agriculture director by rank, the Managoli police have registered a case and have arrested around 23 villagers from Masabinal village.
Scenes of villagers vandalising the car and damaging the EVMs, control units, and VVPATs had gone viral on social media, which prompted Deputy Commissioner Vijayamahantesh B Danammanavar and Superintendent of Police Anand Kumar to rush to the spot and take control of the situation.
Based on the footage, the Managoli police are questioning the accused and more arrests will follow, a senior police officer told South First.
Of sarees, chickens and illegal campaigning
Another unexpected incident happened at the Ganjigere village in Mandya district’s KR Pete segment. The villagers, mostly women, returned the sarees and chicken that were given to them by local leaders, allegedly to vote for KR Pete’s BJP candidate KC Narayana Gowda.
Mandya district, which is a stronghold of the JD(S) party, has staunch followers of former prime minister HD Deva Gowda and his son HD Kumaraswamy, and it looked like they would not switch their loyalties at any cost.
In Kolar’s Vemagal police station limits, a former gram panchayat president named Krishnappa was found campaigning within a 100-metre radius of a polling booth in Vemagal when the police officers — led by a woman police sub-inspector — asked him to stop campaigning and move out of the 100-metre radius.
Krishnappa did not budge, but rather intensified his campaigning for the Congress. A team of policemen then attempted to bundle Krishnappa into a police jeep to take him away from the polling booth, but he hurt his forehead on the jeep’s door.
He started bleeding and, after this, the villagers gheraoed the police vehicle and threatened to attack the cops for their high-handedness. The police team called the control room for additional reinforcement that reached the spot and brought the situation under control.
Later, a local leader identified as Anil Kumar, came and pacified Krishnappa who opted not to complain against the police.
Where things turned violent
In Padmanabhanagar constituency in Bengaluru, some youth armed with sticks attacked their political rival party’s workers at a polling booth in Papaiah Garden.
They went on a rampage attacking people, where a few women who were standing in line to vote sustained injuries, PTI reported on Wednesday.
In another incident, at Sanjeevarayanakote in Bellary district, a few Congress and BJP party workers rained blows on each other and complaints against each other have been filed.
In Gadag district’s Binkadakatti village, the police resorted to a mild lathi-charge to disperse a crowd that had gathered to protest against their rival candidates, Superintendent of Police BS Nemagouda told South First.