Even though Mumbai recorded a stronger-than-expected voter turnout, confusion reigned supreme in various parts of the city. Reason: Many voters were unable to locate their names in the voters’ list and had to turn back without exercising their franchise.
The problem was especially acute in areas such as Sewri, Dadar, Parel, Worli, Andheri, Ghatkopar, Mulund, Mankhurd, Shivajinagar, Chembur, Govandi, Malad, Kandarpada and Kurar. Most people who could not find their names in the lists insisted they voted for the last Lok Sabha and Assembly polls, while some claimed to have voted from the same ward for decades.
Yogendra Rai and his wife Kiran travelled from Belapur to Govandi, where the couple has always voted from, and even took leave from work. However, both had to return disappointed. “We couldn’t find our names in the voter list online either, but decided to check it out in person because we have always voted from here. But we were left running from one booth to another, trying to find our names,” Yogendra said.
Among the long list of people who could not vote on Tuesday was actor Varun Dhawan. Like others, Dhawan, too, said he voted in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, but could not find his name on the list this time.
There were several cases where just one person’s name from a family was missing from the list.
Mohammed Salid Khan, 46, a voter from Shivajinagar, was one such example. Despite not finding his name on the list, Khan was desperately trying to find a way to register his vote. “Three out of four members in my family could vote. Only my name is missing. I have been trying to convince the officers to register my fingerprints or my photo identity and allow me to vote,” he said.
In Andheri, the frustration turned into anger as dejected citizens, who could not find their names on the list, thronged the local election office in protest, demanding a re-election or some way of recording their votes.
“I am a diabetic patient. I was looking for my name since morning without any help from the election department. The officers don’t even know how to help us,” said VK Verma, a resident of Andheri’s Veera Desai Road.
Election officers in Andheri admitted there were complaints from multiple societies that more than 70% of the names were missing from the voters’ list.
Anil Parab, a senior Shiv Sena functionary, said the problem of missing names from voting lists was rampant in the western suburbs. “According to my estimation, around 11 lakh names were missing. This is based on the difference between the list published during the 2014 Assembly election and now. I wrote to the State Election Commission (EC) about this the moment they published the voting list for this election in January. This is sheer negligence by the EC while preparing the list, nothing else,” Parab, also a Sena legislator.
A spokesperson from the State EC, however, said the list was more or less the same as the one prepared for the 2014 Assembly polls. A senior election officer, who did not wish to be named, however, said the goof-up was owing to the newly printed electoral list distributed to staff just two days ago. “The serial number of voters changed for almost all wards. While a few were corrected before distribution, some voters may have suffered owing to this change,” he said.
Sanjay Deshmukh, additional municipal commissioner at the BMC, said, “We asked voters to check the 2017 list immediately after it was published before they come to vote. We will have to check on the complaints.”
Sena MP from the south Mumbai parliamentary constituency Arvind Sawant said some people couldn’t vote because the list available at polling booths did not match the list available on the mobile app ‘True Voters’ made by the state EC.
“At ward no. 226 alone, more than a thousand voters were unable to cast their vote even though they found their names on the mobile app. The presiding officer and returning officer were not helping them,” Sawant said.
Farhan Azmi, son of Samajwadi Party MLA Abu Asim Azmi, said there was plenty of confusion over names in his ward, Colaba. “People were unable to find their names. Some others found their names at multiple polling booths. I found my own name at three places,” Azmi said.