Telangana polls: Activists pick holes in EC claims, flag irregularities

By Abdullah Kazmi

Hyderabad: With the Telangana elections inching closer, the State Election Commission asserts that it is working tirelessly to guarantee electoral integrity in the polls. However, the discrepancies in electoral rolls and the rising number of allegations of voter fraud have sent a substantial number of voters into a tizzy. As per the updated draft voter list, there are 3.06 crore voters in Telangana.

Last week, the State Election Commission published the draft for the second summary revision (SSR) for the state’s 119 Assembly constituencies. According to the report, Telangana has 3,06,42,333 voters, wherein 1,53,73,066 are male, 1,52,51,797 female, and 2,133 belong to the third gender.

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However, civil society groups have raised concerns over the perennial irregularities during elections in recent years and fear a repeat of the 2018 Assembly elections when more than 20 lakh voter names were missing from the electoral roll on the day of voting.

The then chief electoral officer, Rajat Kumar, had admitted to deletion of voters ‘for various reasons. Congress then moved the Supreme Court seeking explanation from the Election Commission for the large-scale deletion of voters.

Electoral impasse, zero transparency

Several women activists, including convenor of Basthi Vikas Manch Jasveen Jairath and social activists Lubna Sarwath, Sara Matthews, and POW Sandhya, recently claimed that there were widespread irregularities in the voter rolls.

During their recent press conference, they elaborated on the difficulties being experienced by citizens in accessing electoral rolls. The activists highlighted the enrollment — either by filling a physical form or online — was marred by issues such as limited awareness among public, under-skilled staff, fudgy data entry, and opaqueness of the voter registration process.

“The processes of registration for voting, correction in rolls, and filing objections function opaquely and without accountability. A deletion form can be filed by any citizen against any voter ID on any ground. That results in the deletion of that vote from rolls. Ironically, the concerned voter is not even informed about it at any point throughout the process,” one of the activists told

“The same can be said about the objection form, which is open to political manipulation. It can be easily filed by anyone against any voter.”

Moreover, there have been allegations of unauthorised persons going around with laptops in various localities, raising concerns of large-scale voter deletion on the pretext of helping ordinary citizens.

Missing votes, lack of awareness

Amid this electoral chaos, the government has not even attempted to clear the air. “Having a voter ID is no guarantee that your vote will appear in electoral rolls, ” a senior govt official said, requesting anonymity.

There have been instances in the past where people went to polling stations to cast their votes only to find their names missing from the rolls. They carried their voter IDs too.

As the revisions exercise catches pace, the activists also witnessed the apathetic treatment meted out to the Booth Level Officers (BLOs). “They are poorly trained and face communication issues, especially in the Old City area. The whole revision exercise is being conducted physically, and BLOs are often shooed away from localities, undermining the door-to-door campaigns,” said the activists.

The claims of publicising the SSR exercise by senior government officials have fallen flat. There is no publicity or awareness campaigns being run anywhere. Just like citizens cannot have multiple Aadhar cards and Pan cards, the Election Commission should also make possessing multiple voter IDs a punishable offence.

Fair elections ‘improbable’

Speaking to on the issue of voter manipulation, Jasveen Jairath said, “A highly aggressive awareness campaign is the need of the hour. Electoral irregularities can only be mitigated if BLOs are empowered with the right amount of training and more qualified and senior government officials assist in such exercises”.

She also alleged that local police personnel are sometimes complicit in voter manipulation. Suspicious polling booths should have open communication lines with police headquarters. Local police should not be engaged in such areas, she said. “If there are any voters whose names do not show on the electoral roll, it should be addressed immediately,” she added.

“With such glaring discrepancies and limited resources available on the ground, conducting a free and fair elections seem improbable. Whether or not the authorities actually take up the task of ensuring electoral integrity remains to be seen.”