Karnataka Polls: Lakhs, left out of electoral list, robbed of right to vote

Bangalore:  Braving the summer heat, voters across Karnataka headed to polling booths to exercise their franchise on Sunday - resulting in one of the highest turnouts in the state's electoral history at over 71 per cent.  But that figure is of little comfort to the tens of thousands more who wanted to vote, but could not.

Many disappointed people in Karnataka found their names missing from the list of those allowed to vote in the Assembly elections - despite having voted in the same place for years.

One voter told NDTV, "l've been here all my life and I'm 61 years. I've voted here for several years at the same polling station." He added that his name had been in the list during the last election.

Another voter in Bangalore's Shivajinagar constituency was distraught - he was the only member of his family who could not find his name on the list. "I have been voting for almost 20 years at this booth and we've been staying in this area for almost 25 years. It's so unfortunate that I came here today and my name is missing," he said.

There were citizen campaigns ahead of voting this year urging people to get out and vote. The newly formed Bangalore Political Action Committee or BPAC also tried to stir Bangalore voters out of their apathy. But what of those who wanted to vote but could not?

Though it is difficult to put an exact number to the number of names missing from voters' lists, some estimates put it at more than a dozen lakh.

Mohandas Pai, formerly of Infosys and one of the guiding lights of BPAC told NDTV, "Yes I am very disappointed because we had gone and met the Chief Electoral Officer of Karnataka and told him that 13 lakh people have been removed from the electoral list for whatever reason... went to the High Court, it gave an order and many names were restored. I guess some things have slipped through the cracks."

Election Commission officials say they will work on this, but that the voter has to take some responsibility too.

Ajay Kumar Jha, Karnataka's Chief Electoral Officer told NDTV, "Yes, there were some instances but compared to the last elections, such instances have been fewer. This time, we put our deletion list on our Website also, but unfortunately voters may not have seen that. They did not check in time. Since January, we have included more than 13 lakh voters in the electoral roll."

Karnataka's voters have another chance soon to vote, in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, but many rue the opportunity they have lost to have a say in choosing the state's next government.


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