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'Someone Already Voted Instead of Me': The Election Was a Mess & Mumbai is Angry

Deleted names, bogus voting, chaos at booths: Mumbaikars ask EC accountability as many fought to vote, many gave up.

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Beverley Daphne D'sa (39), a teacher at a school in Mumbai's Bandra set out at 9.30 am on Monday, 20 May, to cast her vote at her usual polling booth. While the rest of her family was able to vote, Beverley returned home six hours later with an official letter saying her name has been deleted from the list, and a lingering doubt that somebody may have already voted in her place.

"I have an old voting ID which has the unique number beginning with the initials FLN. The new IDs now have a EPIC number. I went to my centre but my name wasn't there. I then went to all nearby centres to check if my name was there but it wasn't. However, at least two centres, they told me that my FLN number was the same as somebody else's," Beverley said.

Beverley then managed to get the polling booth address of the person with whom her ID number matched and went there to check if the person had already cast their vote. To Beverley's dismay, they had.

What followed was four more hours of Beverley, and scores of other voters like her whose names had disappeared from the voting list, demanding answers at the Election Commission office in Khar.

Deleted names, bogus voting, chaos at booths: Mumbaikars ask EC accountability as many fought to vote, many gave up.

A picture of the letter given by EC to some voters who raised concerns at their Khar office.

(Photo accessed by The Quint)

"Even if my name was deleted from the voting list and my number was assigned to somebody else, the fact remains that only one of us could vote," Beverley said.

With six seats of Mumbai having voted in the fifth phase of elections on Monday, also the last phase of polling in Maharashtra, reports of people's names missing from the list, allegations of bogus voting, and mismanagement at polling booths surfaced from several areas.

With the voter turnout relatively low across all seats, the Opposition parties have blamed the Election Commission of India (EC) for the 'chaos'.

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'After Hours of Protests, They Asked Us to Come Next Election'

Rituja Sawant (41), an author and content creator living in Bandra has not missed voting in any election since 2000. While the voting slips for all her other family members arrived a few days before polling, Rituja's did not.

Rituja went through all the lists in every room at her poling station but her name was not there in any.

"We tried speaking to several officials at the centre. We looked for the name of the returning officer (RO), I spoke to one of the ROs and explained to her my issue. She confirmed if my building had gone for redevelopment but it hasn't. She then said that I will have to fill Form 6 for a new ID again and I'll be able to vote only next election. She didn't pick up calls later," Rituja said.

Deleted names, bogus voting, chaos at booths: Mumbaikars ask EC accountability as many fought to vote, many gave up.

People wait to cast their votes during the 5th phase of Lok Sabha elections, in Mumbai, Monday, 20 May, 2024.

(Photo: PTI)

Rituja, like Beverley then, headed to RV Technical Institute in Khar where EC officials were stationed and grievances could be escalated. There, scores of disgruntled voters spent hours demanding answers and insisting that they must be allowed to vote but to no avail.

"There, we found another whole mess. There were so many more people like us there with similar issues," Rituja said.

"There were other people with issues like somebody's identity has been duplicated and the vote has already been cast. There was another person who said that his dead father's name, which he already got deleted after he passed away, was there as a voter but the son's wasn't," she narrated.

Yash Rawal (30), a chartered accountant from Dahisar under Mumbai North constituency narrated a similar story. Rawal has voted in every election since 2014, including the civic body elections. Voting slips for his entire family, except for him, arrived at their residence a few days before voting.

"I called every helpline possible, but eventually all the officials told me that I will have to apply for a new ID and can vote only in the upcoming Assembly elections now," Rawal said.

Names of Voters of Redevelopment Societies Missing 

Scores of citizens whose housing societies are under redevelopment across the city also complained of their names being missing from the list.

Voters at several booths in Mumbai's Andheri, who have moved to alternate housings while their housing societies are being reconstructed, found their names missing from the lists.

"We were not contacted by any officials on our registered mobile numbers when they might have come for physical verification before making the final list. It's not our fault our houses are being reconstructed. All of us assumed our poling booths are still the same. When we approached the officials at the booth, they just kept saying they can't do anything," a voter from Andheri said on the condition of anonymity.

Among those missing from the lists were also some prominent personalities like playback singer Amit Trivedi, actor Gauahar Khan, actor and model Vidya Malavde, and journalist Rana Ayyub.

"I went to vote today and I showed them this slip that these people had only given me. The number you can see here, 1080, they said it does not exist. He then said I should go outside to another counter and show them this. I said, ok! I reached that queue in which I stood for half an hour and then they searched for another half an hour in some register and books. I said don't they have digital records?" Trivedi said in a video he posted on social media.

Deleted names, bogus voting, chaos at booths: Mumbaikars ask EC accountability as many fought to vote, many gave up.

Singer Amit Trivedi took to Instagram to narrate his experience after not being allowed to vote.

(Photo: Video screengrab)

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EVM Glitches, Mismanaged Booths: Opposition Slams EC

Reports of bogus voting also emerged from many parts of the city. Shiv Sena (UBT) candidate Rajan Vichare alleged bogus voting being propagated by his opponent and Eknath Shinde faction candidate Naresh Mhaske.

Vichare lodged an official complaint with the Election Commission alleging that Mhaske had brought in 1,500 bogus votes from outside by paying people.

Nationalist Congress Party (Sharadchandra Pawar) leader Jitendra Awhad claimed that government machinery was being used for bogus voting in a Thane school where he cast his vote.

Speaking to the media after casting his vote, Awhad said that the EC had "deliberately slowed down the voting process to discourage people from voting."

Deleted names, bogus voting, chaos at booths: Mumbaikars ask EC accountability as many fought to vote, many gave up.

Voters wait in a queue at a polling station to cast their votes for the fifth phase of Lok Sabha elections, in Mumbai, Monday, 20 May, 2024.

(Photo: PTI)

Like Awhad, several citizens and politicians also took to social media to call out the slow voting processes and mismanagement at polling booths.

In several booths of Mumbai North constituency, voters waited for over two hours in long queues just to be able to vote.

"This in clear mismanagement. We came at the centre at about 8:15 am and we were able to cast our vote only by 10.30 am. There are multiple rooms inside to vote but there are queues outside only two rooms. The clearly haven't divided the lists properly in every room," Kamlesh Jain, a voter from Borivali in Mumbai North constituency said.

Glitches in EVMs were also reported from Mulund and Powai areas.

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'Does World's Largest Democracy Even Have Any Provisions in Place?'

While former chief minister Uddhav Thackeray held a press conference to slam the EC and called it a "puppet of the BJP" on Monday, Mumbai BJP chief Ashish Shelar in a video posted on social media put out a number to give a missed call on if their names were found to be missing from the lists.

Rituja, who returned home after six hours of running pillar to post struggling to cast her vote, also returned with an official letter from the EC like Beverley.

Deleted names, bogus voting, chaos at booths: Mumbaikars ask EC accountability as many fought to vote, many gave up.

Former Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray with wife Rashmi Thackeray and sons Aaditya Thackeray and Tejas Thackeray after casting his vote during the fifth phase of Lok Sabha elections, in Mumbai, Monday, 20 May, 2024.

(Photo: PTI)

"All of these people were the ones who had the conviction to want to vote and not let this go despite the heat and other issues. But we saw so many people just turn away and go back home," Sawant said.

"The returning officer was just trying to tell us that we cannot vote and we can only vote next election. I kept asking him what's the solution to this? Just giving up and waiting for the next election to vote is not the solution, I want to vote today. What is the provision in place with the EC when something like this happens? Our vote was wasted and it was not a small number. The police said things like don't create a law and order situation here, just go home," said Sawant.

"They have put up posters and hoardings everywhere about the need to vote and how it's our right. But all our voting IDs and Aadhaar cards eventually came to null and void yesterday. You claim to be the world's largest democracy but where are the provisions for something like this?" Sawant asked.

Al Nasser Zakaria, a college principal from Bandra under Mumbai North Central constituency whose brother was unable to vote, said that he plans to file a PIL in the courts against the issue.

"We will escalate this matter. We will ask why were the citizens of this country denied their right to vote? Our generation will not take this lying down. Whatever has happened is not in the country's interest. This is dangerous," Zakaria said.

(The Quint has reached out to the Election Commission, Maharashtra via email for a response on the reasons behind missing names and claims of mismanagement. This story will be updated if and when the body responds to our queries.)

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