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Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019

Election Commission rejects Congress claim of ‘fake voters’ in Madhya Pradesh

EC says it is leaving no stone unturned to ensure error-free voter lists, slams political parties for creating undue controversies.

india Updated: Jun 09, 2018 16:06 IST
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
People queue up to cast their votes in Bengaluru during the recent Karnataka assembly elections. Madhya Pradesh goes to the polls later this year.
People queue up to cast their votes in Bengaluru during the recent Karnataka assembly elections. Madhya Pradesh goes to the polls later this year.(PTI File)

The election commission (EC) on Friday said it has found no merit in the Congress’s allegations that the voter list in Madhya Pradesh contains over 60 lakh fake names.

The poll panel had sent two teams to verify the Congress’ accusation of discrepancies in the BJP-ruled state’s voter list.

A senior EC official said on the condition of anonymity that discrepancies to this effect were found by the poll panel itself during a drive to “purify” the rolls in 2016, and the errors have since been rectified.

“An exercise carried out across Madhya Pradesh in 2016 to clean up the electoral list had thrown up as many as 68 lakh duplicate entries, which were subsequently verified. Errors have been largely rectified, and work is underway in the remaining parts of the state,” the official said.

The EC had dispatched teams to the Narela, Bhojpur, Hoshangabad and Seoni-Malwa assembly constituencies to conduct a preliminary inquiry.

In Seoni Malwa, 2,397 of the 2,442 entries claimed to be similar across polling stations by the Congress were found to be genuine. The remaining 45 are in the process of being deleted for reasons such as voters having shifted or died, the poll panel said.

As many as 17,684 of the 22,252 entries flagged by the Congress in Narela were found to be unique, the EC said.

No Congress spokesperson was available for comment.

The poll panel, meanwhile, has accused political parties of creating undue controversy over electronic voting machines and alleged errors in the electoral rolls. “This is creating confusion among voters and eroding their faith in the polling system,” the EC official said.

Referring to the Congress complaint about the unexplained growth of voters in Madhya Pradesh, given the rise in elector-population ratio from 52.76% in 2008 to 61.45% in 2018, the poll panel said the numbers do not look unusual when taken in consonance with census data.

Chief election commissioner OP Rawat said last week that the poll panel has been making concerted efforts to clean up the rolls, ensuring that there is no duplication or representation of deceased people in the voter list. “In 2016, the commission launched the process of electoral roll purification. A ‘de-duplication software’ that helps identify duplicate entries in electoral rolls across the states was also developed in association with C-DAC (Centre for Development of Advanced Computing),” the official said.

The software tracks similar names with identical demographics, such as parentage, addresses and age, and groups them together. A booth-level officer is then dispatched to physically verify the entries, ensuring that all duplicate names as well as entries of people who may have died or moved from a particular constituency are removed from the list.

According to another state electoral official, the software throws up 9-10% duplicate entries in most constituencies. “We have placed special focus on enrollment. Booth-level officials are told to ensure that those eligible to vote find their names on the list. Then, ahead of elections, they are given the voter slip that acts as their identification card for the purpose of voting,” he said.

Professor Trilochan Sastry, a faculty member of IIM Bangalore and founder-member of election watchdog NEW and ADR, said the process of sanitising electoral rolls needs to be strengthened. “The EC has been fair and neutral, but this is an ongoing process. In a country with over 83 crore voters, there is bound to be some discrepancies,” he added.