Kochi/Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala High Court has directed the Election Commission to strictly implement the decision to deploy central armed forces along the inter-state border, especially along the Idukki district, in an attempt to prevent bogus voting by people crossing over from Tamil Nadu. Round-the-clock surveillance by the central forces have already begun along the border.
The district police and the central forces are jointly providing security at the border, booths and problem-prone areas.
The candidates of the United Democratic Front had approached the High Court, seeking to prevent bogus voting by those who have votes both in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Congress candidates E M Augusty (Udumbanchola), D Kumar (Devikulam), and Cyriac Thomas (Peermade) had filed the petition.
Candidates are concerned about dual voting by those who have been included in the electoral rolls in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
There are 10,000 such voters in the Udumbunchola, Devikulam and Peermade constituencies, according to unofficial figures. But these voters are not on the list of double voters released by Ramesh Chennithala, the leader of the opposition in the Kerala Legislative Assembly.
It is suspected that several voters in Bodinayakkanur, Kambam and Theni districts in Tamil Nadu have votes in the three border constituencies in Idukki district and had voted in the previous elections in return for cash.
The petitioners had also sought the border roads to be closed on voting day on April 6. However, the Election Commission said that people would not be stopped at the border. Those crossing borders, including that of Kerala, should state the objective of their travel.
In their petition to the High Court, the UDF candidates had also demanded that central forces should be deployed on forest pathways, and a video surveillance system should be set up there as well as along the check-posts.
Though check-posts will be under surveillance, there would be no regulations on the parallel paths. But officials have stated that steps should be taken at the booths to prevent bogus voting.
The Idukki police chief has informed the District Collector that central armed forces would be deployed at the four border stations and check-posts.
The checking along the other border districts, including Palakkad, would be stepped up. However, there would not be much restrictions for those travelling from Kerala to other states, where there are no elections.
While considering a petition by Congress candidate Shanimol Usman, the court also directed to consider options such as video recording or webcasting at the 39 booths, where the issue of double voting was raised in Aroor.
After examining the documents submitted by the Election Commission, the court said that it was satisfied with the preparations till now.
Why candidates are concerned
Votes cast by those with dual votes in two states have a significant bearing on the poll results and can determine the success or failure of the candidates in the three constituencies. Candidates in Kerala have demanded that strict action should be taken by officials to stop this fraud.
Reports say a few politicians from Kerala had visited Tamil Nadu for a few weeks recently in a bid to bring voters across the border after they first cast votes in Tamil Nadu. Such voters allegedly use chemicals to wipe off the indelible ink from their fingers. Special teams have been deployed by certain political parties in Kerala to assist such voters and bring them to polling booths in border districts as soon as they cast their votes on the other side.
The assembly elections in Kerala and Tamil Nadu are on the same day: April 6.
The Election Commission had tried to find and exclude votes that are on the lists of both the states but could not succeed completely.
An affidavit submitted by the applicant to the Commission, while seeking to register on the voters’ list is the one way to prevent double voting. But some political leaders have complained that those trying to commit electoral fraud would submit fake affidavits to deceive the poll officers.
The officials, entrusted with poll duty, have also said that linking the voter ID card with the Aadhaar was the only way to prevent a person from casting votes in both the states.
Strict surveillance from Sunday
A 3,000-strong police team led by Idukki district police chief R Karuppasamy will be deployed for surveillance. The district has been divided into six sub-divisions. Six DySPs have been given the charge of the sub-divisions.
ASP S Sureshkumar, 11 DySPs, 42 CIs, 184 sub-inspectors, 1,599 cops, and 250 central personnel, and 625 special police officers are part of the contingent.
Eighty-five patrol teams, and 60 law and patrol teams are also present. Striking forces of the ADGP law and order, south zone IG and DIG Ernakulam have been deployed at the sub-division level.
Only 29 voters at Pachakanam booth
Kumily: In all 29 voters are eligible to vote at the polling booth in the Pachakanam Estate, which is inside the Periyar Tiger Reserve. This is the remotest polling booth in Idukki district.
There were 37 voters on the list for the 2016 Assembly election, but only 6 people turned up to vote. Though there were 32 people on the list for the local polls, just nine people arrived to cast their votes.
During the 2016 Assembly and 2019 Lok Sabha polls this booth lacked power connection and potable water facility.
However, for the 2020 local polls, power connection was provided and a water tank set up.
Campaigning to end today
The campaigning for the April 6 Assembly elections in Kerala will come to an end on Sunday but without the traditional grand finale, known locally as kottikkalasam, when the sloganeering reaches a crescendo.
After silent campaigning on Monday, the voting will be held from 7am to 7pm on Tuesday.