Bahra University

The electoral polls for the Municipal Corporation of Shimla were already in focus as the results would reflect over public’s mood for upcoming legislative assembly polls due in November 2017. Now, the draft voters’ list released by the Himachal Pradesh Election Commission has created a stir as both the BJP and CPI(M) allege Congress of hijacking SMC polls by omitting thousands of voters from various wards. The opposition has alleged that as much as 18,000 voters are missing if all 34 wards are considered. There are several wards in which only five to ten voters are enlisted. The voters are also shuffled and they are moved into other wards, alleged the opposition and CPI (M). For instance, several residents of Kasumpti found their names listed in Chakkar ward or Kaithu ward.

A delegation of BJP even met the State Election Commissioner, Parthasarathi Mitra, on Monday. The delegation acquainted Mr. Mitra with the issue of ‘messed up’ draft voters’ list. Thousands of voters are either missing or their wards have been changed irrespective of the one in which they actually reside, the delegation said. On an average, the voters’ list has missed 300-400 voters. BJP put the blame on the Congress government and the CPI (M). It was also alleged that the election commission is working under full influence of government.

Another delegation of BJP met the ADM (Protocol) and handed him a memorandum, in which it described the chaos created by the election commission due to faulty voters’ list released on April 11, 2017. Each ward is supposed to have a population of more than 3000, but the number of voters in the published draft list doesn’t agree with this rule. In some of the wards, the numbers of voters is not even 10 percent of their respective populations, BJP said alleged in the memorandum.

The allegations said that last time 3200 voters were listed in Ward No. 16 (Jakhu). This time, the list has only 1874 voters, which implies that 1100 voters are missing. Similarly, 425 voters are missing in booth five of the Ward No. 19 (Sanjauli) and 1000 in booth four of Ward No.34. Only 171 voters are listed in Ward No. 25 (Panthaghati) while the population of the ward is about 7000. Only 251 voters are listed in Ward No. 34 (Kanlog) that had a population of about 3300 according to 2011 Census. Bhattakufar has only 364 voters against a population of 4279. Similarly, only 1257 voters are listed in Ward No. 24 (Sangti) despite the fact that the population of the ward is about 6500.

Other wards including Dhalli, Mashobra, Kacchi Ghati, also reported similar disappearance of large number of voters from the voters list.

On the other hand, the Deputy Mayor, Shimla, Tikendar Panwar, wrote a letter to the Commissioner P. Mitra regarding this grieve issue. He criticized the manner in which the electoral rolls for Shimla Municipal Corporation elections have been drawn. The rolls are a complete mess as more than half the population have been left out, he said. Not more than 0.5% young voters find space in the rolls as age group from 18 to 22 is completely missing from the voters list. He questioned revision process of the electoral rolls. He further added that those who were less than 18 years during the last elections should have been incorporated but since no exercise in this regard has been done, this group is left out. Similarly, there is utter confusion over the boundaries of the wards and incorporation of the voters.

Surprisingly, the list has missed a large number of elected representatives while others find their vote in other wards where they have never stayed in their lifetimes. In a cursory exercise, he said, concrete cases from Kaithu, Totu, Majath and Summer hill wards were found. These cases speaks about the generality of the methodology adopted and the procedure done for preparation of these electoral rolls, he said.

He raised the demand to direct the electoral officer to conduct fresh survey and revise the electoral rolls in the entire Municipal region. He also demanded a time period of one month for this fresh exercise.

However, Congress has denied any involvement in this case or influence on the state election commission. The party, in a statement, said that Congress has nothing to do with the mistakes of the elections commission. Parties have urged the elections commission to revise the voters list and release a fresh one to fix this error. This could introduce a delay of a couple of weeks or more in SMC elections along with wastage of public resources. No doubt that the carelessness of the commission is shocking and highly condemnable in this regard.