Mumbai/Nagpur, April 25 :
The issue of deletion or diversion of six million voters’ names in Maharashtra blew into a full-fledged controversy with demands ranging from repoll in all the state’s 48 Lok Sabha constituencies to a CBI probe, following an apology tendered by Election Commissioner H.S.Brahma, who admitted to the lapse.
“Merely apologizing is not sufficient. It is like rubbing salt on the wounds of the six million-plus citizens who were denied their fundamental right to vote,” Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti chief Kishore Tiwari told IANS.
“The EC must compensate by ordering a complete repolling in the 48 Lok Sabha constituencies and sacking all the electoral officials concerned here, including chief electoral officer Nitin Gadre,” Tiwari said.
“This is a lapse of monumental magnitude… The blunders by the state election department can have a major impact on the outcome of the 2014 elections,” he said.
IANS had on April 19 first highlighted the issue of the six million-plus voters’ names being deleted or missing from electoral rolls, which sparked off a furore among voters, candidates, political parties and officials.
The main political parties in the state, however, grabbed it as an opportunity to hammer each other.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) blamed the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena for not checking the lists circulated in advance, while they retaliated by alleging it as “conspiracy of the Congress-NCP government with the bureaucracy” to avoid defeat in the elections.
BJP leader and Mumbai North-East candidate Kirit Somaiya lodged a police complaint, alleging “criminal negligence and conspiracy” as over names of over 100,000 voters were missing from his constituency.
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena leader and Mumbai South candidate Bala Nandgaonkar, terming it as a Congress-NCP conspiracy, sought a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the state election department’s lapses to find out who all are behind the conspiracy.
The leaders of ‘Grand Alliance’ of opposition parties, including Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, BJP’s Gopinath Munde and Republican Party of India-A chief Ramdas Athawale plan to meet Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath to draw his attention to the issue.
Reacting to the EC apology, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan sympathized with those whose names were deleted and said: “The state government would take up the issue with the Chief Election Commissioner (Sampath).”
Earlier, Chavan indirectly blamed the people for not checking voters’ lists well in advance to ensure their names were there.
“… People check on their flight and train ticket status, they could have easily checked the voters’ lists,” he commented, obviously referring to some prominent people like HDFC’s Deepak Parekh, jurist Ram Jethmalani, BSE chief A.K. Chauhan, adman Bharat Dabholkar, actors Amol Palekar and Atul Kulkarni and lakhs of others whose names were missing from the electoral rolls.
Brahma assured the missing names would be included before the Maharashtra assembly elections later this year.
Tiwari said if Brahma had considered the issue highlighted on April 19 – well before the polls – then at least two million voters would have got the opportunity to vote.
State BJP chief Devendra Fadnavis, reacting to the EC apology, told a private news channel there were “gross irregularities” in the working of the election officials which led to the fiasco.
“There have been reports that the private BPOs entrusted with the work of electoral rolls revision, are charging money for selective deletions which can benefit a particular political party,” he said, adding he has complained about this several times to the poll authorities.