Thiruvananthapuram: Days after the Kerala Legislative Assembly election, it is suspected that over 2.5 lakh postal ballots were printed additionally in the state. The number of people eligible to cast votes through postal ballots was not even 7.5 lakh, but still 10 lakh ballots were reportedly printed. Was it done purposefully so that eligible voters are made to vote twice?
Doubts over such a rigging arise as several polling personnel deployed for the just-concluded election had received postal ballot papers twice.
The Election Commission has announced that 3,53,000 people cast votes through postal ballots from their homes -- they being the first category of voters called absentee voters and were eligible for postal vote. They comprised those above 80 years of age, differently abled, Covid-positive patients and those under quarantine.
However, there is no clarity on the number of polling officials and essential service staff who have used the postal ballots -- they fall in two other categories. The Commission has not yet given the count of voters from these categories who used the postal ballots. Even if all the people in these two categories had used postal ballots, the number would not be more than 4 lakh.
The employees of essential services were allowed voting from March 28 to 30 in special centres set up on the basis of assembly constituencies. Those who were assigned poll duty cast their vote from April 1 to 3 in facilitation centres set up in assembly constituencies.
In the fourth category comes 57,160 service voters -- they comprise defence personnel, those in foreign services and those working in other states.
In such a scenario, questions arise as to why this many additional ballots were printed.
For each constituency, the ballots were printed based on the orders given by the respective returning officers. And the ballots were received by the respective returning officers, assistant returning officers, or their representatives.
More ballots for three districts
The most number of postal ballots were printed for Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam and Kannur districts -- over 1 lakh for each district. For Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's Dharmadom constituency in kannur, 15,000 ballots were printed. Around 10,000 were printed for Thalassery and Mattannur constituencies and about 12,000 for Kalliasseri, all being CPM strongholds.
Constituencies where 10,000 or more postal ballots were prepared: Kanhangad, Thrikaripur, Irikkur, Kuttiady, Perambra, Balussery, Ambalappuzha, Hairpad, Kayamkulam, Aranmula, Karunagappally, Chavara, Kottarakkara, Punalur, Kundara, Kollam, Chathannoor, Varkala, Nedumangad and Neyyattinkara.