(Photo: Mint)
(Photo: Mint)

Deletion of voter names in Telangana: Electoral officer admits to lapses

  • During the 2018 assembly elections, mass deletion of voter names was reported on voting day
  • According to data from the CEO’s office, there were 28.1 million voters during the 2014 general (and state) elections in Telangana

HYDERABAD : Validating claims of the opposition parties and activists that a large number of names were deleted from the electoral rolls in Telangana without due diligence in the Greater Hyderabad area in 2015, a Right to Information (RTI) response from the chief electoral office (CEO) said that the then chief had admitted before the Election Commission of India (ECI) that door-to-door verification had not been conducted properly.

According to the response by the ECI in February, the then chief election commissioner Bhanwar Lal had told the ECI on 8 August 2015, that many people had complained that block level officers had not visited their homes for verification of voter names in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) area during the Aadhaar linking process under the election photo identity card programme (EPIC).

(Graphic: Naveen Kumar Saini/Mint)

During the 2018 assembly elections, mass deletion of voter names was reported on voting day, which even prompted the Telangana CEO to apologize to the public. Many who had voted in the 2014 elections found their names missing from the electoral rolls, especially in the GHMC area, which has 25 of the 119 state assembly constituencies. The Aadhaar linkage with EPIC was done under the National Electoral Roll Purification and Authentication Programme, an exercise meant to get rid of duplicate and bogus voters. The process, which began in March 2015, was stalled after a SC judgement in August, but by then, about 3 million names had already been deleted from the rolls.

“The CEO has not been giving us any information on this. I had filed multiple RTI queries and we had to get this data from the ECI. The CEO’s office in Telangana lacks transparency and this has cost millions of people their vote," said Srinivas Kodali, an independent researcher, who had filed the RTI query.

According to data from the CEO’s office, there were 28.1 million voters during the 2014 general (and state) elections in Telangana. The number dropped by 2 million (while more than 3 million names were deleted in 2015, more names were added back during subsequent revision of rolls) till 10 September 2018, to 26.1 million.

Activists and the opposition then pointed out that the number of voters usually goes up in every state every year (as people turn adults, over 18) and that many names were deleted without informing voters. When contacted, Rajat Kumar, CEO, Telangana, said that BLOs have to give in writing that the names were added or deleted only with due verification.

“All due procedures were followed. But following it on paper and carrying out everything on the field perfectly are not exactly synonymous. But some laxity in verification or casualness in contacting has been reported. It could be that they (voters) may have been travelling or that they were not present. It could also be that BLO was not present there. I cannot say now what happened then, but it could be a mix of both things," Kumar told Mint.

The CEO also said that as a corrective measure, his office has taken up verification at the polling booth level now. Kumar also categorically stated that it is mandatory for the voters themselves to also check whether their names are present in the electoral rolls or not.

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