Can’t Control? Delete!

New Delhi: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal talks to media persons after a meeting with Chief Election Commissioner at Nirvachan Sadan, in New Delhi, Friday, Nov 02, 2018. ( PTI Photo/ Ravi Chowdhary)(PTI11_2_2018_000121B)

What’s in a name if it can’t allow you to vote? AAP alleges that lakhs of voters’ names are missing from Kalkaji, Tughlaqabad and Bijwasan

Ashwani Bhogal, his wife Poonam and mother Jharna Devi, find themselves in a precarious situation. Their names have been deleted from the voters list — a right that 65-year-old Jharna Devi has used for over 40 years.

Bhogal, who grew up in the Govindpuri area of Kalkaji, says it came as a surprise to him when he checked for his name and found it gone, as well as his partner’s and mother’s. However, his brother’s name is still intact.

Bhogal is one of the founding members of the Aam Aadmi Party, the party in power in the Capital, which accuses the BJP of the mischief. After CM Arvind Kejriwal alleged that lakhs of names had been deleted from the voters list — of those who had been either members of the AAP or vote for them and the Congress Party – Bhogal decided to check his name as well.

But auguries of this strange event had shown up around a month ago, when he found his voter ID card invalidated. “A group headed by a lady came to my home and said we’ll get it made for you, just give your identification proof and photos”.

These “people” reportedly went door to door asking for information, ostensibly tasked with the responsibility of helping the electorate vote.

“The kids say that the lady who came teaches in a Kalkaji school. They were collecting documents from the entire lane where we live”, Bhogal adds but could not find out who gave her the responsibility to make such enquiries and promises.

The documents were collected and the group headed by the ‘teacher’ came to his house a week earlier, apologising that they couldn’t do anything and that he would have to approach the Election Commission office.

“I said when you’ve already taken the documents you should have done it. They kept promising that they’ll fix it, get my voter ID made”, but after this interaction his fears came true – his name disappeared from the voters list.

In Tughlaqabad, the constituency a stone’s throw from Kalkaji, complaints were filed by nine persons for the deletion of their names from the electoral roll.

According to AAP, it was found that the nine names were deleted during the “exercise of door-to -door survey” conducted by the respective Booth Level Officers in the month of July 2018.

At least in the case of five persons — Naval Kishore Gupta, Anoop Kumar Gupta, Kamlesh– Gupta, Akshya Gupta and Harish Kumar — they were assured that their names would be included in the electoral roll and voter cards will be issued.

In the case of another four — Deepa S Kumar, Sunil Kumar, Aishwarya Kumar and Abhimanyu Kumar — the process is still underway.

These nine are just a fraction of the lakhs that AAP says have lost the right to vote, 3.5 lakh in South Delhi alone. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has alleged manipulations by the BJP behind the scenes, as the national party “now realises that it is going to face a massive defeat in 2019 elections”.

According to numbers provided by the party earlier, it has claimed that Tughlaqabad finds 6,000 names deleted from the electoral list. In other areas of South Delhi, 7,500 names have been deleted from Chhattarpur, and 12,000 from Bijwasan.

While the BJP has rubbished the allegations as lies, the Delhi Chief Electoral Officer’s office has formed 11 teams to “verify” the deletion of around 1,900 names from the electoral rolls of the Tughlaqabad constituency. The office of the District Election Officer (southeast) issued an order notifying the teams. The verification exercise will be carried out on November 16-18 in the Lal Kuan and Harkesh Nagar areas of the south Delhi constituency.

The order states that the teams will conduct house-to-house surveys during these three days from around 10 am, during which they will verify the names deleted from the electoral rolls between February 2015 and August 2018.

“They (the teams) will mark ‘residing’ or ‘not residing’ at the given addresses during the survey. The survey will be videographed by civil defence volunteers. The representatives of recognised political parties will also be present during the exercise and they will be provided a list of the deleted voters,” it further states.

These new allegations have sparked off a fresh bout of shadow boxing between the government at the Centre and that governing the Capital. Whatever the result of the investigation, it will be important to see how names vanished from the electoral list and if it can be proved, the hand which erased the names of those who are supporters and sympathisers of AAP.

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