The Assembly election in Andhra Pradesh, slated to be held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha polls on April 11, promises to be a cliffhanger, not just for the contestants and parties but also voters. For, there are reasonable apprehensions of names missing from the revised electoral rolls. Given the experience of Telangana, where a large number of voters could not exercise their franchise in the Assembly elections last December, the issue has now snowballed into a major controversy. The opposition YSRC has submitted representations to the Election Commission and all the main constitutional heads accusing the ruling TDP of engineering a deletion of over 50 lakh names—an industrial scale removal of the opposition’s support base.
The TDP too has claimed that the YSRC has been seeking to systematically strike off its followers’ names from the voters list. The Chandrababu Naidu government has formed a special investigation team to look into the opposition’s alleged fraud. And amidst these acrimonious exchanges over the crucial question of missing voters’ names, the Election Commission has been surprisingly unperturbed. The Chief Electoral Officer reassured the people that no names were deleted without verification and in fact, that 13 lakh new voters have been added to the list. To his credit, he launched a massive campaign to nudge people to check the lists and enrol forthwith if their names were missing. Going by the public response, it appears that his message has been relayed well.
But there is another problem with the revised electoral rolls. For instance, in Kurnool, it was found that the number of registered voters is more than the number of eligible voters—by almost 2.4 lakh! And the officialdom has no idea how this came to be or how to rectify it before April 11. Knowing what we do now, it seems certain that there will be complaints of missing names on the day of voting. It is the duty of the EC to ensure free and fair polls. Apologising to the voters, as the Telangana CEO did, or passing the buck to the people and blaming them for not checking on time is surely not the right way to go about it.