The Election Commission (EC) went all out to encourage more people to vote this year, even appointing special observers to assure voters that there would be no foul play. Needless to say, huge amounts of public funds were spent on the nationwide campaign.
But the whole purpose of the drive seems to have been defeated, with several lakh residents of Mumbai and Thane not finding their names on the voter lists yesterday. In some cases, only some members of the family were missing from the list, while others found mention. Earlier, the state wing of the EC had made much noise about the nationwide drive to clean the electoral rolls and draw up a fresh, updated one. While the focus was on updating addresses and weeding out names of deceased voters, duplication of names was also a matter of concern, they said.
In this context, the omission of names is inexplicable. The EC has no satisfactory explanation for this, except for the fact that it had taken pains to publish advertisements after the rolls were published. But that explanation may not be enough. Take, for instance, the predicament of a south Mumbai resident whose name had been deleted, while those of his spouse and aged parents remained on the list. Considering the fact that the family has been staying at their current address for the past six decades, this is unpardonable.
Facing the fury of voters who were denied their voting right in places like Pune, Mumbai and Thane, the EC now claims that it had no role to play in the cleaning of the rolls, and that the job was carried out by employees of the district collectors’ offices.
The EC cannot wash its hands off this matter, if it wants to ensure that a maximum number of voters place their ballots, to preserve a healthy democracy. It must investigate the issue to rule out the possibility of political sabotage.
Keeping in mind the allegations of Pune residents that names of voters with political affiliations were deleted, a thorough probe is the need of the hour.