The city showed how clearing the electoral rolls of repeated voter names could play a major role in improving the turnout percentage. Compared with the 2012 polls, the turnout leapt by 10.78% this time.
The electoral rolls were inflated with repeats in the names of voters, ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Had the Election Commission of India (ECI) not deleted the Absent, Shifted and Dead (ASD) voters over the last three years and followed the old list of 1.03 crore voters, the percentage would have gone up by a mere 5%, according to officials in the Commission. There were 4.9lakh more voters in the 2017 polls.
The ECI deleted 10.97 lakh voters’ names in 2015 and 3.17 lakh in 2016 and this shrunk the electoral rolls from 102.86 lakh in 2012 to 91.80 lakh in 2017. About 4,000 booth level officers identified the deleted names under the ASD category. They went from door to door matching the names with the voters in the summary revision drive undertaken by the commission. The list of names removed was much larger than the names added during the drive.
“There is no doubt that the voters’ response was overwhelming this time. There are various reasons for this. Three were additions to the list too. The rise in the number of voters proves this, as the rise is double in percentage when 4.9 lakh more people voted this time,” said an official from the ECI.
The official further said that the deletion had been done scientifically by the officials visiting homes, providing due hearing and with the consensus from political parties. He said that the allegations of missing names of actual voters was baseless as the names that were removed were removed for a reason. He said that the many complaints of missing names were due to a goof up by the BMC while it made booth-level lists.
Another official from the ECI said that there were about 6 lakh more voters in Mumbai that need to be deleted. “The electorate ratio comes to 68.41% of the city’s population, which is 1.25crore. With this parameter, the number of voters should be about 85.51 lakh, against the existing 91.8 lakh, which means that about six lakh more need to be deleted,” he said.
Uttar Pradesh governor and former BJP MP Ram Naik had complained to the ECI a few years ago, alleging that the large number of repeated voters resulted in a drop in the polling percentage of the city. The ECI had taken cognisance and directed its state unit to take massive drives to delete repeated names. Following it, the ECI had deleted more than 60lakh voters ahead of the 2014-Lok Sabha elections. It led to an uproar, as many voters could not find their names on the lists. While hearing a number of petitions, the Bombay high court had upheld the procedure followed by the ECI.
If the ECI claims are to be agreed upon, the predictions of certain political parties getting benefits may also prove to be a half-truth. Though the BJP has been claiming to have the total rise in percentage in its favour, it could also prove beneficial for other parties, according to the observers. “If there are 11lakh names that have been deleted, there are also cases of voters who could not vote because their names were missing. Had they voted, the percentage would have gone up further. It is our experience that rise in percentage always works in our favour and we will benefit from it tis time too,” said BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari.
Sharad Kumar, state coordinator, Association for Democratic Reforms, said, “The rise in the number of the voters is solely due to the collective effort put in by commission, civic bodies, NGOs and students. I do not believe that cleaning the electoral rolls had any part to play in it.”