Teeka Ram Meena admits to bogus entries in electoral lists

Chief Electoral Officer Teeka Ram Meena

Thiruvananthapuram: Lending weight to the concerns raised by Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala, the Election Commission on Monday confirmed that there are indeed names of bogus voters in the electoral roll.

A preliminary examination has revealed that there may be bogus entries in the voters' list in every district, Chief Electoral Officer Teeka Ram Meena said during a press conference here on Monday.

At least eight voters’ photographs have appeared multiple times on the electoral list against different names in the Kozhikode North assembly constituency, underlining a startling revelation that bogus identity cards had been issued with real voters’ names and addresses.

The number of other double entries found were at: Vaikom - 590, Idukki - 434, Chalakkudy - 570, Palakkad - 800 and Kasaragod - 640.

The revelations point to serious lapses on the part of the officials as no one else can manipulate the electoral rolls. The statutory authority for the preparation and revision of electoral rolls is the Electoral Registration Officer (ERO).

ERO is an officer of the Government or a local authority designated or nominated by the Election Commission of India in consultation with the state government.

Teeka Ram Meena explained that the discrepancies were in part due to the inability of the booth-level officials to visit houses directly in the aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak. Problems with the software too drastically affected the process.

Chennithala had offered to hand over to the state election commission a list of duplicate voters from 69 assembly constituencies on Monday. He claimed that bogus votes would add up to about 3.25 lakh.

The Congress leader had earlier handed over details of 2,16,510 bogus voters from 66 constituencies. He said he suspected the role of officials loyal to the ruling Left Democratic Front. He called for urgent remedial measures from the Central Election Commission on the matter.

The duplicate items on the electoral list may be suspended pending a probe following allegations from Chennithala. Twelve of the district collectors have submitted reports to the Chief Electoral Officer in this regard.

Electoral officer suspended

In wake of the complaint and its reliability, electoral officer M P Ambily was suspended from duty after five voter identity cards in the name of a single person was found generated in the computer system at Uduma in Kasaragod district.

Ambily, who was deputed to election-related duty, is a junior superintendent attached to the taluk office at Punalur.

The duplicate entries have now been removed.

Strict action will be taken against officials if foul play is detected in the voter card issuing exercise, Meena warned.

Poll panel initiates steps to prevent bogus voting

Those with multiple voter ID cards will be allowed to cast their votes at the booth allotted to their residential address. However, confusion prevails after it has been found that names have been duplicated in the electoral rolls of the same booths.

A separate list containing the names of duplicated voters would be made available to polling officers.

Booth-Level Officers have been asked to find the real voter, his/her address, and the booth he/she is entitled to vote.

A list of absent/shifted/deceased voters would be prepared while distributing slips, and it would be made available to the Returning Officers concerned, to prevent bogus voting.

Expressing happiness over the development, Chennithala said the Election officers’ findings have validated his claim that the names, especially in the case of Uduma, were duplicated without the knowledge of the real voter.

Issue not new, says Meena

While confirming Chennithala’s allegations, Meena said a disease, once diagnosed, requires timely treatment and it should not be kept under wraps. Steps to delete names that have been duplicated will be initiated after the Assembly polls.

Meena said the duplication of names is not confined to Kerala alone. It has been reported from other states also. In January, such 64 lakh bogus voters were removed from the list.

Taking a swipe at political parties, the official said they had been passive without checking the voters’ list.  

The electoral roll

With the addition of 7.36 lakh new voters, the electoral roll swelled to 2,74,46,039. Out of this number, 1,32,83724 are male voters and 1,41,62,025 are female voters.

"As many as 290 third genders have identified themselves. This is a great achievement. They are normally very shy but this shows their confidence in the system. They are ready to make use of their electoral right," Meena said.

Over 1.76 lakh voters were removed from the list, he added.

Valid nominations

Meena said a total of 1,061 candidate nominations for the upcoming polls were found valid after scrutiny out of the total of 2,180 received on March 19, the last date of submitting them. A total of 957 candidates are currently in the fray on Monday, the last date for withdrawal of nominations, the Commission said.

While 8,85,000 applications were submitted for postal voting, only 4,40,044 were granted.

Over 96 per cent of the 3,70,000 polling staff have already been vaccinated, Meena said.

Nineteen more companies have been deployed to ensure the voting goes unhindered across the state. More troops will be stationed in North Kerala, Meena said.

Poll code violations

He also said over 67,000 complaints on the violation of the model code of conduct were received on the C-VIGIL mobile application, following which over six lakh posters and banners were removed across the state.

Kerala goes to polls on April 6. The results will be announced on May 2.

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