The on-the-road travails of online voter registration

After my husband got our constituency and ward details from our neighbour, he filled in the voter registration form online. The last instruction of the online process was to post a copy to the Election Office located at the BBMP Headquarters. He did not trust the BBMP to mail us back our acknowledgement so I was to take the forms to the BBMP office. Though I anticipated a long queue and quite a lot of running around, I agreed, if I had to convince people to vote I had to be on voter’s list in the area of our new residence.

I reach the office and meet the concerned official, Shekar, who glanced at my form. He immediately responds, "You have to go to your ward office." I flip the page and show him the ‘post a copy…’ part. This was just the beginning of him trying to dissuade me from submitting my form at the Election Office, BBMP. Mumbles something about the EC not doing their work properly.

He looks at it and says, "It will be better if you drop it at the ward office. They will enter the details immediately, we get thousand of these and the sorting and all other things will take time".

He then goes through the form and the attached documents. He asks me, where my mark-sheet was. When I tell him I have attached a copy of the passport, he says, "It has to be a birth certificate or a mark-sheet". I ask him, "Are you telling me my passport copy is not enough proof for my age?" While doing this, I also take out my notepad and start writing a ‘Shekar, Manager, Election Department, BBMP’ (I have done enough running around offices to know if I ever needed to ‘appeal’ I needed these details). He says, "No, No. It’s enough, but the ward office people may not know".

He continues flipping through the form and suddenly says that there are no photos attached. I then tell him, "I have it with me, If you want I will give it to you." I mentally thank my wise husband, who had asked me to carry photos along though this was just a copy of the application being submitted. Shekar doesn’t take the photos, he just needed to know!

He may have sensed that I would still leave the forms with him, he then asks me for the exact location of our apartment and goes on to suggest that we had filled the form wrong because the location of the apartment comes under Bommanahalli Constituency and not Bangalore South. He says "when they verify the online application it will be rejected because it is wrong information, it is better you fill a new Form 6 and give it to your ward office" (whichever that was).

After his inspection, he says, "So are you going to take this to your ward office or will be leaving it here?" I tell him, "Since you are telling me it’s better to take it there I will, but if you are not sure which constituency and ward we come under, the others will also make me run around from office to office".

To make me leave his office faster, Shekar helps (despite being reluctant to take the form, he made many calls to see which office should I submit the form to). He calls the Konankunte office and the person on the other end tells him that our house falls under the Arekere ward and not Yelchenahalli. Shekhar goes on to tell to the Konankunte official about how we did not fill the form correctly and how he is helping me. But even after a few calls it is still not clear (to them) which ward we actually belong to.

Finally an official named Venkatesh, whom Shekar had earlier called, informs us that after checking the complete address, they had come to the conclusion that my house indeed was part of the Yelchenahalli ward and not Arekere ward (I try to be adult enough not to say "I told you so").

What did this mean? Yelchenahalli has many ward offices, they tell me that I have to go to the Konankunte office. All the time spent at the BBMP HQ was to redirect me ‘somewhere else’, there was nothing wrong with our form filling or supporting documents and there was no need for additional photographs.

Before I left, the officials there threw me a one-liner. They said "nimmanthavru passportgey election id maadskoltharey neevu vote maadakey maadskolthaideera…" (Most people get a Voter Id made for getting a Passport and you are doing getting it made to actually cast a vote).

The next day I head to Konankunte, as instructed by the BBMP Head Office Election Manager. At Konankunte, the officer told me I had to go to Dodkallasandara — this without even looking at my form. When I told him that the BBMP Head Office had directed me here, he called someone at the Dodkallasandra office, who in turn informed him that I would have to go to Yelchanhalli ward office – that saved me a trip to one more office.

So I quietly go to the Yelchanhalli office and not surprisingly they asked me to go the ISRO Layout ward office. Exasperated, I told the Yelchanhalli ward office person that if he stood on the main road he could see my apartment. He looks at me and says, "That’s not how BBMP works."

I headed to the ISRO Layout ward office where the third person I was directed to, took my form and stamped the acknowledgement.

All I can say is I am happy that the work is finally done. I will not try to understand why receiving an application form is such a big deal. I would like to thank the residents of all the above mentioned areas. Without their accurate directions, I wouldn’t have been able to find all these offices so easily!

About Josephine Joseph 0 Articles
Josephine Joseph researches and writes on urban governance, civic and environmental issues in Bangalore City, from a 'citizen' point of view.

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