On Tuesday, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and nine other civic bodies in Maharashtra went to the polls. It was dubbed as the ‘mini Assembly elections’ with the central focus being on BMC – India’s largest, richest and oldest civic body that is aggressively vied for by all political parties.
While the city saw a record voter turnout of 55% – higher than 44.75% in the last BMC elections – the polls were marred by scores of voters returning with un-inked fingers from polling booths. The problem? Either their names were not in the voters’ lists, or their photographs were incorrect (getting mixed up with a deceased or with someone of the opposite gender). Incorrect serial numbers and confused volunteers didn’t help the situation either.
An unofficial figure estimates a whopping 12 lakh voters to have been affected.
12 lakh voters in Marathi areas were missing. We demand an inquiry.Anil Parab, Shiv Sena leader
Besides the Shiv Sena, the BJP and the Congress claimed that around 12 lakh voters were missing from the list – or around 13% of the 91.8 lakh registered voters. This implies that the voter turnout was much higher than 55%, but many couldn’t cast their vote. Additionally, before these elections, the Maharashtra State Election Commission had decided to delete 11 lakh voters’ names to prevent electoral manipulation, but of “non-existent voters” only. So, was this a case of mismanagement of polls or of deliberate sabotage, as some suspect?
Varun Dhawan's Name Was Missing From the Voters’ List Too
Actor Varun Dhawan spoke to the press about how “upsetting [it is that] he couldn’t find his name in the voter list”, from his polling booth in Bandra. He said that he voted last year, and was widely trolled on Twitter. He later apologised, clarifying that he was referring to the Lok Sabha elections of 2014.
Shania NC, BJP’s national spokesperson, social activist and fashion designer, was surprised to find her name missing from the voting list, after arriving at Nepean Sea Road to cast her vote on a bicycle.
However, the problem was resolved with the help of the concerned authorities. But what about the common people and their right to vote?
Inconsistencies in Voters' List Leads to Protest in Ghatkopar, Mankhurd
Soon after a BJP MLA from Charkop alleged foul play over several cases of missing voters’ names coming up since the morning, a protest over the same broke out in Sarvodya Vidyalaya in Ghatkopar West and Ward 135 in Makhurd. Hundreds of voters claimed that their names were missing and their photos were incorrect. Upon complaining to their ward’s returning officers, they were asked to take up the issue with the civic body.
When the two crowds got rowdy, police protection was increased and it escalated into a law & order issue. There was even a mild lathi charge by the police in Mankhurd.
According to Firstpost’s sources, on an average, at least a 100 names were missing from each polling booth. When calculated across 7,304 polling booths, the number comes to a good 13% of the city’s voting population. While many attributed this to mismanagement by the Election Commission and the civic body, others alleged that this was a deliberate attempt by some political parties to deny people their right to vote, in order to alter the election results.
Mumbai BJP unit President Ashish Shelar spoke to the press about these polling glitches after casting his vote in Bandra. He claimed that many people have not received their voting slips either.
The release of list of voters got delayed and there was also a change in polling booths. All this may have an impact on elections. People want to vote but are not able to, due to these glitches. The confusion will have an impact on the results.Ashish Shelar
Over 200 Rabodi residents were left fuming after their names were found to be deleted from the voters’ list for the Thane Municipal Corporation elections. Residents of Popular Niketan, a residential building in Shivaji Park, Dadar, came forward claiming that none of their names were in any of the voters’ lists in the neighbourhood. “Our kids were first-time voters but couldn’t find their names in the list and felt discouraged,” said Kumar Gokhale, a resident, speaking to DNA.
At Niwara, Pune’s oldest old-age home, 140-odd residents were left in the lurch when their names went missing from their ward’s lists. At Cuffe Parade’s GD Somani School, voters cried foul over their names missing from the list: “The names of those from outside Maharashtra and Muslims are missing from the list. This is suspicious,” alleged Chandrabali Gupta, a resident of Cuffe Parade’s Ganesh Murti Nagar, speaking to The Indian Express. These are just a few examples of entire localities that were denied suffrage.
Social Media Overflows With Complains
Throughout the day, micro-blogging site Twitter was inundated with complaints from voters calling out to the civic body and the EC, with pictures of their Aadhaar cards and voter slips, asking why exactly their names were missing. This was only on social media, making it a tiny percentage of society. Think of those who are far away from where media of any kind can’t, or doesn’t bother to look.