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BJP prepares for elections with bogus voters lists
By P.M. Damodaran, Lucknow

The compilation of the voters list for the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, which are scheduled to be held in February-March next year, is snowballing into a major controversy. The opposition parties, particularly the Samajwadi Party, have alleged large-scale inclusion of bogus voters in the voters' list by the officials at the behest of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

The main allegation is that the officials are indulging in the deletion of the names of people belonging to the minority community from the voters list on the premise that they are, at any rate, not going to vote for the ruling BJP. The Samajwadi Party has charged the government with preparing voter's list with bogus voters in its efforts to indulge in bogus voting during the polls.

A couple of months ago, irregularities in the voters list in Thakurdwara Assembly constituency in Moradabad district was brought to the notice of the Election Commission. An inquiry conducted by the Secretary to the Commission, Mr. K.J. Rao, had revealed that the names of 15,800 voters were deleted from the voter's list by the officials disregarding the procedures laid down for this purpose. Significantly, Thakurdwara is a Muslim-dominated constituency in Moradabad district.

This had prompted the Election Commission to direct the state government to suspend four officials, including the then District Magistrate, Mr. S.K. Gupta, for the irregularities. The state government had dragged on its feet for some time by seeking evidence in support of the charges from the Election Commission before suspending the officials. But when the Commission took a firm stand, the government had no other way but to comply with its orders.
Now the Samajwadi Party has brought to the notice of the Election Commission about an abnormal increase of 84,650 voters in Ayodhya Assembly constituency. It has been pointed out that while the increase in voters in Ayodhya is 84,650 during the past eight years, the rise in voters in the three neighbouring Assembly constituencies in Faizabad district ranged only from 23,000 to 33,000 during the same period. Several houses in Ayodhya have 1314, 1778, 2679 and 2711 voters! The photocopies of the voters' list of houses have been sent to the Election Commission for its persual and taking action. Moreover, the party has pointed out that though Faizabad city Assembly constituency has sizeable Muslim voters, their increase was only 690.

The Samajwadi Party has also complained that there was rigging of the voter's list in Sadar in Sultanpur district and Lucknow West Assembly constituencies. Lucknow West is at present represented by the state Urban Development Minister, Mr. Lalji Tandon. This Assembly segment incidentally forms a part of the Lucknow Lok Sabha seat represented by Prime Minister, Mr. A.B. Vajpayee. There was an abnormal increase of nearly 30,000 voters in the constituency though it was earlier informed by the district election officers to the U.P. Election Directorate that the rise was only less than 6,000 voters. In fact the main opposition party in U.P., the Samajwadi Party, has demanded a summary revision of the voters list in all the 403 Assembly constituencies in the state and an inquiry into the inclusion of the bogus voters in the voters list.

Meanwhile tardy progress has been reported in the distribution of the photo identity cards. According to reports, though the state had launched a photo I-card drive in August this year in view of the coming elections, the response from the voters had been far from satisfactory and the target of completing the work by November 30 is unlikely to be achieved. Out of the total of 9.98 crore voters, nearly three crore are yet to receive the I-cards which has put a question mark on the sensibility of the Election Commission’s decision to make the cards mandatory to exercise the franchise by the voters during the coming elections. The progress has been tardy in the five ‘KAVAL’ towns of Kanpur, Agra, Varanasi, Allahabad and Lucknow and Gorakhpur. In the first move in1995, photo identity cards were issued to nearly 5.25 crore out of 9.98 crore voters. In the second phase, the distribution of identity card was initiated only August this year.

The Election Commission has already expressed its grave concern at the slow progress in the distribution of identity cards and had even warned the officials of stern action if they failed to meet the target. If the Commission sticks to its firm stand, many a heads may roll as witnessed in Moradabad district. The Election Commission had made the identity card mandatory on the ground that it, along with the electronic voting machines, would virtually eliminate the bogus voting and the rigging of the polls. The tardy progress in the distribution of identity cards and the allegation of large-scale inclusion of bogus voters in the voter's list has now put a question mark on holding free and fair elections in U.P.

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