CHENNAI : M Ganesh was running pillar to post on Thursday, to cast his vote in the Lok Sabha elections. Officials in the Old Washermenpet booth could not locate his or his parents’ name. “I have all my documents. There is no change of address. The Election Commission promised that no voter would be missed. Yet, my entire family has been left out,” said Ganesh.
Ganesh is one among a few thousands who claim to have been denied the Constitutional right to choose their representative. Several polling booth officials confirmed names being missed and blamed booth-level officers for the same. In most cases, missed names were of voters who had changed their address.
Gomathi of Old Washermenpet says she had applied for change of address in October last year. Yet, all names of her four-member family were missing. Booth officials who did not want to be named also alleged that some voters produced their change of address applications, but it was not entertained by polling officials.
That apart, many people in minority dominated pockets of the city claimed their names were missing in the list. According to unofficial estimates, 1,000 names were left out in Royapuram. “I cast my vote the last time from George Town. This time, my name was missing,” says Muneera, of Dawoodi Bohra community from Rajasthan.
In Division-53 in North Chennai constituency, a large number of Muslims were allegedly left out of the voters list. Many of them staged a protest in the evening, against their names being missed. “Where did our votes go,” asks Shehanaasbegam. “Names of those who died years back are still there, but ours are missing.”
Similarly, in Purusaiwalkam area near Ritherdon Road, around 300 to 400 people belonging to the Jain community were denied their right to vote. “We searched names of our family and community members in four centres, but could not find. We were trying till 1 pm, but found the exercise futile,” said Anand Jain
For many in Perumbakkam, this was the first election after they were resettled. They were also denied their franchise. Their names were absent in the list, both at Perumbakkam and in areas from where they were resettled. Subiksha, who moved to Perumbakkam recently says she was told her vote was still in Thousand Lights area.
“We went all way there today only to find our name missing. They claim to have deleted our names after we moved,” says Subiksha. While Government officials claims that camps to enable transfer of addresses to Perumbakkam were conducted regularly, residents say that they received no information of such a camp being held.
“These people did not move to Perumbakkam on their own. They were forced to resettle. It was hence the responsibility of the government to ensure they were not deprived of their right to vote,” says policy researcher Vanessa Peter. (With inputs from Nirupama Viswanathan, S Kumaresan and Sinduja Jane)