Thousands couldn’t vote for candidates in the four Lok Sabha seats of Thane district, as election officials had struck their names off the electoral rolls even as many ghost voters featured on the rolls
Elections in the four parliamentary seats of Thane district were marred with chaos, as thousands of dejected voters were turned away from polling booths after their names were found missing from the rolls.
Anger was palpable in the Lake City, as citizen activists and elected representatives threatened to take election officials to court for mismanagement and dereliction of duty while carrying out a door-to-door verification drive in the run up to polls.
Much of the ire was directed at Booth Level Officers (BLOs), responsible for doing a physical panchnama (verification) under the Representation of the People Act, 1950.
“I am hurt, angry and disappointed. For the past many years, I have voted here without fail, but this year my name does not figure on the list. I want to know why,” said Bernadette Pimento (63), from Charai in Thane, who turned up to vote at the polling booth at Seva Sadan.
Thane district has 72.5 lakh voters after the authorities added 2.5 lakh new names in a drive that ended on March 25. As many as 6.7 lakh ASD (absentee, shifted, dead) voters were deleted after a door-to-door verification drive stretched over the past 18 months. However, several valid voters were removed from the list.
Sources in Thane administration said in the last 2.4 lakh deletions, a panchnama was done only in about 30,000 cases. “The rest of the homes were found locked, or we couldn’t locate the owner, relative or neighbour,” said a senior official of Thane administration.
Through the day, complaints poured in from across the city about needless deletions from electoral rolls. In Samta Nagar, nearly 200 ghost voters were found featured on the rolls while they didn’t even reside there.
“We had brought this to the notice of the Election Commission, but no action was taken. These people don’t live here, we have never seen them here, but yet they figure on the list. God knows how,” said local citizen Milind Gaikwad.
Other areas, too, faced a similar problem. The first 27 voters in the Airoli segment did not exist. Nearly 1,200 voters were missing in the Hiranandani Complex on Ghodbunder Road, Thane. Hundreds of others in Dhokali, Balkum, Mira Road, Bhayander, Kokni Pada, and Vasant Vihar found their names missing.
Deletions were reported from booths in St John School, Charai, Saraswati School in Panchpakhadi, the municipal school in Vasant Vihar, New English School on Ram Maruti Road. Several deletions were found in societies in Dhokali, including Pride Park, Runwal Estate, Vakratunda and Everest buildings.
“All voters residing in Vakratunda building in Dhokali found their names deleted from the list. This is the result of lazy work of BLOs and negligence of party members who accompany them,” said civic activist and local citizen, Nitin Deshpande.
“I have decided to file a PIL against the election officials, whose poor work has resulted in lakhs of names mistakenly being deleted from electoral rolls,” said Shiv Sena MLA Pratap Sarnaik. NCP’s Jitendra Awhad said he, too, would be filing a PIL against officials.
Thane Collector P Velarasu said a list of deleted names was published almost a month in advance, and that it was the voters’ duty to inform officials if their name had been included mistakenly. “We publish several advertisements with list of deleted voters’ names almost a month before the polls.
If someone finds their name included, they have to inform the authorities that they are a valid voter,” he said. “We got 3,000 new voter names after March 25, and these could not be added to the rolls. Another few thousand homes were found locked when our officials went for a panchnama,” he added.
J H Poddar high school, ward no 95, Bhayandar (W)
The Mehtas, who have been voting for the last several years, were upset after discovering that their names were missing from the list
No of names missing from the voting list in Mira Road
Names missing from Shantinagar, Sector 9, Mira Road
Number of residents from Dharmaya Building, Bhayander who couldn’t vote as their names were also missing from the list
St Paul School, ward no 182, Parel
Voter Mehernosh Pitawala accused the polling officials of neglecting senior citizens plight and lamented about the absence of wheelchairs and seating arrangements after she witnessed an unattended senior citizen, who was gasping for breath
Agripada Municipal Secondary School, ward no 205, Mumbai Central
People whose names were missing from the list
Number of senior citizen who fainted due to heat and overcrowding at the polling booth
Number of names deleted from the voters’ list
Number of registered voters for Thane district