In a major jolt to Congress and its mayoral candidate Vikas Thakre, the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court on Friday warned to annul voter list changes done allegedly at the behest of Thakre. The court also slammed State Election Commission, Municipal Commissioner for not justifying these major changes after final voters’ list was published and directed them to come clean on February 13.
Responding to a petition filed by the BJP nominee Dilip Dive (younger brother of Sudhir Dive, a close lieutenant Nitin Gadkari) and Meenaxi Telgote, a division bench, consisting of Justice PB Majumdar and Justice PB Varale directed them to explain legal power to undertake voters’ list change and how it can be effected on the basis or oral request made by Thakre. If the state election commission or returning officer fails to justify changes, then it will bring another Congress heavyweight Praful Gudadhe-Patil into trouble, as voters from his ward were transferred to Thakre’s ward. Thakre and Gudadhe are leaders of different factions of Congress and are at loggerheads.
The BJP nominees claimed that voters’ list was changed and manipulated by the Returning Officer, Laxmi Nagar, Zone-I (Prabhag No. 71) and his deputy, the Asstt. Returning Officer, on telephonic instructions unauthorizedly given by the City Municipal Commissioner, on February 1, 2012. Final voters' list was published on January 23. The List then contained 32,416 voters.
The petitioners alleged that the returning officer had illegally changed the voters’ list of Ward no 71 after the deadline. They said that the first preliminary electoral list was out on January 12 and objections were invited till January 17. After that the final list was published on January 23, taking into consideration of all objections.
However, the leader of the Opposition and the Congress nominee, Thakre took objection to the list with the municipal commissioner, Sanjiv Jaiswal. Using his influence, Thakre prompted the latter to roder change in the list to the returning officers even after the last date. They said, Jaiswal asked the officers on February 2, after the deadline, to shift 1,809 persons from Ward no 72 to 71 and transfer another 450 persons from Ward no 71 to 72.
The counsel of the petitioners further said that these 1,809 persons added to Thakre’s ward were from slum areas of Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar while 450 persons transferred to Ward no 72, lived in Swawalambi Nagar and were mostly from middle-class families. He claimed Thakre had got this done deliberately as his supporters were mostly slum dwellers while middle class were unhappy with his performance.
The petitioners have alleged that these changes have been effected with a view to oblige Thakre to better his election prospects and as per his dictates. Despite being pointed out, the State Election Commissioner has not corrected the wrong committed
by its officers, the counsel of the petitioners further said.