The Curious Case of Voter Fraud and Duplicate Voters in Andhra Pradesh
The YSR Congress Party claimed that about 59 lakh entries in the voters lists are false in Andhra Pradesh.
Photo for representation.
New Delhi: Last week, a 10-member team comprising officials from the Election Commission of India, led by former deputy election commissioner Vinod Zutshi, reached Andhra Pradesh to audit the state voter list, following allegations by the YSRCP that about 59 lakh entries in the voters list are false.
The allegation is significant as there are about 3.67 crore eligible voters in the state, which means the alleged ‘fake voters’ constitute about 16 per cent of the total electorate.
Ponnavolu Sudhakar Reddy, president of YSR Congress Party’s (YSRCP) legal cell, said, “Our party’s technical team analysed the list voter-by-voter and we have submitted the evidence to the state and central Election Commission.”
Giving an example, Reddy pointed out that a voter holding ID number BTG15XXXX (ID withheld) has been listed in two constituencies, namely Kuppam and Palamaner, in Chittoor district under names that have a slight variation – P Bharghavi Pula and P Bhargavi.
In another instance, a voter with the name ‘Rangarao Galanki’ with ‘husband/father’s name’ column filled-in as ‘Amulu’ has been duplicated by including the same names in capital letters under a different voter ID in the same constituency. There are about 25 lakh such cases in the state, the party alleges.
The YSR Congress Party further claims that in about 20 lakh cases a voter with the same ID is on the electoral list in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Although here it should be noted that in 2014, the number of electors in the state of Andhra stood at 6,49,34,138 and after the splitting of the state, the number of electors in Andhra stands at 3,67,63,099. The corresponding number in Telangana stands at 2,81,75,651. So the difference of about 5,000 additional voters today could be attributed to new voters registered in the states, while the allegation of 20 lakh duplicate votes holds validity only if such duplicate votes existed before 2014 as well.
In any case, allegations over the validity of voter rolls have been made in both the states in the past few months. Most recently during the 2018 assembly elections in Telangana, when the ECI removed about 27 lakh voters in the state owing to claims of bogus and duplicate voters and cases where persons were dead but continued to be on the voters list. Such deletions, however, came under fire owing to allegations of removal of names of genuine voters and also of voter profiling.
“In rural areas, electoral rolls are clean,” said Jaya Prakash Narayana, founder of the Lok Satta Party. Narayana’s party has conducted several studies of electoral rolls at a national level since the past two decades. “Everyone knows everyone in villages… officers know the people. And rural people ensure that they have proper voter IDs because financial benefits are tied to it… like pensions, social schemes etc. Also, another financial advantage is the cash distribution that happens during elections.”
“The problem lies in the urban areas where people move from one house to another, polling booths in contiguous are an issue, etc.” he elaborated. According to studies by the party, at one point in time, urban rolls had about 40 to 50 per cent errors – errors of both omission and commission. “In Andhra, too, the problem is urban,” he said.
The YSRCP filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the High Court (HC) in November last year seeking directions to the EC to verify discrepancies. In a hearing before the court, the EC claimed that it has weeded out fake voters from the list and asked for the PIL to be dismissed.
“But they have only removed a few thousand names from the list... it’s an eye wash,” Reddy said. “After their claim, we exhibited to the court that the list is not clean yet. Bogus votes still exist on the list.”
On February 25, the HC directed the YSRCP to file a fresh representation with the complete list of duplicate votes and directed the ECI to act on such a representation.
The YSRCP is also alleging that the ruling TDP party, led by CM Chandrababu Naidu, is behind the creation of fake voters and that members from the EC – such as the booth level officers, electoral registration officers and assistant electoral registration officers – are also working hand-in-glove with the TDP.
Voter fraud is a serious allegation and it entails a serious punishment for those implicated. According to Section 32 of The Representation of the People Act, breach of official duty by electoral registration officers calls for imprisonment of up to two years with fine. Therefore, the allegations and investigations must be taken forward with caution.
Narayana has a different take on the scale of the problem. “As per my assessment, there are about 12 per cent errors in the voter rolls across India today. But I don’t agree (with the fact) that there is any great election fraud,” he said.
There may be duplications but it doesn’t mean every such duplicate entry in the voters list will lead to manipulation and a duplicate vote, he explained. “This doesn’t mean that you must not correct the rolls. Bu the damage of false voting is minimal.”
Hinting at a possible solution, Narayana said, “The reason why there is scope for these allegations is the fact that verification process is not citizen-centred. One way out is making local post offices act as nodal agencies. It can also be a permanent body where citizens can go and verify their records at any time. This same office can conduct backend verifications with due process.”
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