It was a largely peaceful polling day for Bengaluru on Sunday, March 28th, and lakhs of citizens came out to vote in the first BBMP elections since 2001. Three and a half years after the erstwhile city council was dissolved by the state government in late 2006, and several litigations later, the State Election Commission pulled out a major effort to conduct the city polls at very short notice.
Presiding, polling officers and police personnel throughout the city were helpful and knew their procedures. Arifulla Shareef, election observer for Rajajinagar assembly constituency told Citizen Matters that most complaints were about people crowding near polling booths, canvassing near the booths. “In this case we just told the police officers to take care”, he said.
Shareef also said there were complaints that the polling officers were too slow because of which there were long queues. “So we told the presiding officer to put additional staff”, he said.
Shriraman N, election observer for Mahadevapura in northeast Bengaluru, also confirmed long queues. He added there were reports of group rivalry in some booths, “but inside the polling booth premises there has been no problem.”
Unlike the Parliamentary elections of 2009, this time the EVMs only had Kannada names of the candidates. For people who did not know to read Kannada, they had to use the symbol or the serial number of the candidate to identify their choice.
Talking to Citizen Matters about this, election observer H M Mujeeb Ahmed (Vijaynagar assembly constituency) said, “If you are from outside, then learn Kannada. Or you can see the symbol. If you don’t know Kannada, it’s like being an illiterate, isn’t it? You won’t have two languages on the EVMs in any state. I don’t think it is even worth calling a complaint.”
Reports from the areas – Vasanthnagar
In central Bangalore’s Vasanthnagar (Ward 93), one political party Lok Satta reported that a few ruling party workers gathered close to a polling booth, disobeying the 100 metre distance rule set by the State Election Commission (SEC). The party’s candidate N S Ramakanth, also former President of Kumara Park Residents Welfare Association, said that a huge group of party workers were present near the BDA main office which had three polling booths.
“This is a sensitive area. We have asked for additional police cover here. The observer will decide after checking”, he said.
B Rajaiah, Presiding Officer at polling booth No.8 in the BDA complex office in Vasanthnagar, said, “Someone complained about people being near the booth. But I didn’t get to see anything since I can’t go outside. But no problem has been created”.
Lok Satta party member Santhosh Min, who was present near the BDA office said that the ruling party members were wooing voters when they approached their help desk to search for their names in the electoral list. “There is a threat perception. They are intimidated”, Min claimed, adding that the voter turnout was quite lean in the first half of the day.
BJP’s Vasanthnagar ward candidate Katta Jagadish Naidu denied that problems created by his party workers. A constable M Arjun posted at this location, also said that there was no problem here.
Meanwhile, party workers with help desks near the polling booths were instructed by an observer (a government official on rounds to check for smooth functioning of polls) to remove all banners, pamphlets, clothing and any other paraphernalia that represented their party/candidate. Near the BDA complex, this was immediately adhered to.
But near another polling booth in the same ward, all party workers did not adhere to it. Most help desks were lined with banners showing the name of the party and candidate.
The persisting problem reported in Vasanthnagar, just like in other parts of the city, were cases of missing names from voter lists. Near BDA complex, at polling booth No. 8, out of the total 1057 names listed, only 653 were found to be correct.
There were also reports of spelling errors, incorrect husband/father’s name, jumbling up of names (in some cases the voter was a Hindu, but the father’s name was Christian or Muslim), causing confusion. BJP’s Naidu said that he and his party workers were attempting to sort this out.
Not all were lucky, however. Girija, a resident of Vasanthnagar had to return home without being able to cast her vote, because she couldn’t find her name on the voter list. This, despite having an Electoral Photo Identity Card (EPIC).
At Okalipuram ward in north central Bangalore (contains Ramachandrapura, Hanumanthapura, Srirampuram, Okalipuram, etc), reserved for SC-Women, Congress and the BJP workers were present in large numbers (more than 50) near and around booths. Many of the workers were drunk.
Workers were openly telling people to vote for their parties. Party workers were passing out flyers; flags and other canvassing material were available. Senior policemen were missing in action. Party workers were giving out food to the policemen.
Constable Ravish Kumar said, “It has gone on peacefully till now but around the end of the day there may be trouble. The number of police will be increased at the point of time.” There was a large presence of party workers and Kumar feared that at the end of the day the situation might just get heated up. He said that there has been a history of conflict between the Congress and BJP party.
As of 2.30 in the afternoon, less than 40 per cent of the voters had cast their vote. Party workers said that they would go out and ask people to vote if the turnout remained low.
Jayamahal (Ward No 63) in central Bengaluru includes the localities of Jayamahal Extension, Railway Quarters, Sultangunta, Swamy Shivanandapuram (Taskar town) and Balappa Garden. This a general category ward, i.e. no reservations. The area is primarily a high income area with smooth, wide, clean roads, trees and parks.
An upper middle income, English-speaking couple retired from the private industry shared, “We may have missed voting in an election in 30 years only if were travelling. But we’d be happy if even 50 per cent of our friends vote.”
Policemen posted here were from Chikballapur. They were on duty from 6.00 am until 8.00 pm and had lunch at 3 pm. They said they had been on election work for the past three days with minimal rest.
Other areas – north to south
S K Garden (Ward 61) is reserved for SC-Women. This ward includes localities of Waheed Garden, Pottery town, S K Garden, Devarajivanahalli and ITI Colony. Most of the voters belonged to lower and middle income strata employed privately or independently and government contract labourers – female pourakarmikas. One of them was a 62-year-old who was uncertain about her age. She is unlettered, and speaks Tamil and Telugu.
Most old and middle aged voters across the socio-economic spectrum who came to vote here have voted in all elections over the last 30-40 years. First and second time voters were enthusiastic and prefer ‘educated’ candidates. Primary issues for voters here were water, sanitation and security.
At Kamanahalli (Ward 28), Syed Basha said that he was given Rs 50 by a Congress party worker he knew near the polling booth. He took the money and voted for Congress. Basha works as a helper in a shop.
At Vishwanth Nagenahalli (Ward 22, sandwiched between Hebbala and Nagwara wards in north Benglauru), polling was peaceful. Turnout was low at 4.30 pm, and local residents talking to Citizen Matters pin this on unhappiness with the ‘quality’ of candidates.
Down south in BTM Layout (Ward 176), reports of missing and incorrect names surfaced. Near the polling booth at Vidyajyothi Primary School located on 30th Main, BTM Layout 2nd stage, names of voters from an apartment complex were found missing.
Civic Front member Ansar Azeez Nadwi said that names of many voters from Crystal Sapphire located on 29th Main Road were not there. Around 17 names were rejected early in the day, because of discrepancies.
Congress workers also complained of many errors in the voter list of polling booth No 27 at MES First Grade College, in EWS Colony, BTM 2nd stage. “So far there have been mistakes with about 300 names”, one of them said. ⊕