After revealing discrepancies in the electoral rolls in the poll-bound state of Madhya Pradesh, the Election Commission has asked the government to empower the independent body to take action to put an end to the practice of government officials in preparing bogus electoral rolls at the behest of political masters.
The four teams of officials that the Election Commission had formed in the wake of complaints of bogus electoral rolls filed by the Congress party in Madhya Pradesh, found out during its investigation that many voters, who had died in the past are still listed in the rolls, names of some who have migrated long time ago have been shown against the same address in the voters list.
The team in its report submitted t0 the Commission identified that some names have been listed simultaneously in many polling booths. The teams had conducted field survey after Congress alleged that six million bogus voters have been registered in the electoral rolls. The teams also identified many untraceable voters and also found errors in the voter lists. Some names surfaced multiple times in the list.
The Association for Democratic reform (ADR), a non-governmental body that deals with the election process and required reform has asked the government to harmonize the needs of electoral rolls and processing the necessary legislation, to make it a reality. It said the use of different electoral rolls for the elections to Parliament and state assemblies should end immediately as lays a major role in making of bogus voter lists. The practice of using two different electoral rolls results in unnecessary duplication, extra expenditure, and tremendous confusion in the minds of voters at the time of polling.
The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution, a government-backed body in its report had suggested to the government to empower Election Commission to take strong action on the reports of returning officers, election observers, and civil society in regards to booth capture, intimidation of voters and bogus electoral rolls.
The previous National Democratic Alliance government had in February 2000 set up NCRWC also known as Justice Manually Narayana Rao Venkatachaliah Commission for suggesting possible amendments to the Constitution of India. The Commission submitted its report in 2002.
The issue of bogus voters list came up after Madhya Pradesh Congress lodged a complaint with the EC alleging that there are 60 lakh fake voters in the state. The constituencies in question are held by heavyweight BJP legislators. The four central teams were assigned with the task of finding fake or bogus voter names and fix the responsibility on the officials involved to take stern action against them.
“If a deliberate mistake is detected, the responsibility shall be fixed so as to initiate appropriate action. The teams was also find out how the alleged errors have crept into the electoral rolls,” The Election Commission said in its order. The teams have submitted their reports to the Election Commission, which are currently under scrutiny and consideration.
A delegation of senior Congress leaders from the state had submitted a memorandum earlier this month to the poll panel along with instances of multiple entries of the same voter with different names in a given assembly constituency as well as those of one voter listed in multiple assembly constituencies. “We have provided evidence to the Election Commission that there are approximately 60 lakh fake voters registered in the voting list. The names have been deliberately registered in the list,” said Kamal Nath, the head of the state Congress party.
The population of the state has increased by 24 per cent in the last ten years but the number of voters went up by 40 percent. The Congress has made it a big issue because if it is not addressed immediately and the voter lists are not corrected at this point of time, it could mar the electoral prospects of the Congress party. The difference in vote share between the Congress and the BJP was just nine percent in the last assembly and the presence of 60 lakh fake voters in the electoral rolls could easily tilt the balance in favour of the ruling BJP government.
The party has sought the removal of all duplicate entries in the electoral rolls of 230 assembly constituencies to conduct free and fair elections. The party has demanded the EC to re-examine voter list, seek proof from all returning officers, punish officials involved in the making of bogus voter lists and also examine the voter list of adjoining state.
The number of fake voter as alleged by the Congress is 12 percent of total 50 million voters in Madhya Pradesh. The Congress said it found out the mismatch in the electoral rolls after the party scrutinized voter list in 100 assembly constituencies in the state.
The enormity and complexity of maintaining a correct electoral roll in a country as vast as India, with increasing mobility of a large proportion of the population cannot be overemphasised. But this is one of the primary responsibilities of the Election Commission, ADR said in a report on electoral reforms.
A Parliamentary Committee under a senior law maker from Assam Dinesh Goswami in 1990 had in its report submitted to the Parliament had recommended that the Election Commission should be empowered with adequate powers to stem the menace of fake voting and capturing of polling booths by the miscreants at the behest of leaders of political parties.
The upcoming assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh are crucial for Congress than the ruling BJP because the opposition Congress party has been out of power in the state for last one and half decades whereas the ruling government of the chief minister Shivraj Singh Chavan has been facing anti-incumbency for being in power for three consecutive terms.
Earlier, in February this year the Congress party had also approached the EC complaining about the bogus voter list and asked the Commission to order necessary correction so as to ensure free and fair elections during assembly by-polls in the state.>