Low voter turnout shames India’s IT city Bangalore states NDTV and others nod in agreements. The authorities, politicians, noted citizens, all are aflame criticising the citizens for not participating in the elections. Newspaper have used highly derogatory phrases – especially Kannada newspapers – displaying cheap journalism and reporting wrong data.
Real voter turnout percentage in Bengaluru has to be more than 70%. If it was to be larger than this with the shamefully poor electoral roll management, we should have grave concerns about illegal votes and rigging.
Crude Numbers First
In January 2018, District Electoral Officer, Bangalore, (Commissioner, BBMP) published District Plan 2018. The document gives various statistics for the 28 assembly constituencies of Bangalore and states that the projected population for the election year is 1,31,11,500. (13.11 million)
Age Structure And Marital Status page on Census India website states that 41.1% of the population of the country is below 18 years old. That makes 58.9% of the population eligible to register as voters, which is 77,22,673 in Bangalore District. The electoral rolls of Bangalore have 91,13,095 people. (The Census Handbook for Bengaluru district points out the population in the age-group 0-6 comprises 10.9% of total population and number of adolescents (10-19) in the district is around 15%. This clearly indicates that 35-40% of Bengaluru population are below 18 years of age)
We know that lakhs of eligible citizens of Bangalore are not yet registered as voters. Many NGOs put dedicated efforts to get people into the electoral rolls. CEO-KA accepted this fact by actions in programs like Minchina Nondani, a mass registration drive, conducted on 8th April 2018.
Even if we consider that every eligible citizen of Bangalore is registered as a voter, we still have 13,90,421 unaccountable entries in the rolls. Because we know that at least 6,00,000 eligible citizens have not yet registered as voters, we can suspect about 20,00,000 non-genuine entries in the electoral rolls of Bangalore. The genuine voters in the electoral rolls of Bangalore are only about 70,00,000.
CEO Karnataka page gives the voter turnout% as 54.72 for Bangalore Urban constituencies, meaning that 49,86,685 people have voted. This number for the genuine voters of about 70 lakh people makes 71.24% turnout.
The bloat is not limited to Bangalore or Karnataka alone. It is a plague affecting the entire country. The then CEC mentioned in a meeting on 25 Jan 2016, in the presence of the President of India, that the country had 85 crore voters. The population of the country should have been at least 144.31 crores to have 85 crore valid voters. The population of India then, as reported, was 129.52 crore. I had then written to the CEC showing how the electoral rolls of the entire country were bloated with illegal entries.
Electoral processes have been faulty on many counts
When the electoral system is insincere, voters get confused and frustrated. This would certainly cause a poorer turnout.
Abnormal Registrations and Subnormal Voter Turnout
ECI and CEO-KA slogans apart, most of the EROs (Electoral Registration Officers) in Bangalore have been most unfriendly to the citizens approaching them to register as voters. They spin new rules of their own and refuse to operate as per ECI rules and guidelines. In a visit to Mahadevapua on 20th March 2018, CEO-KA saw that most of the recommended processes for voter registrations were being violated by the officers, and that the citizens were harassed. (See a sample news report here.) This should not be a news to him because for years we have been reporting about the arrogant and non-professional behaviour of ERO staff in various parts of Bangalore.
Whitefield Rising was so frustrated with the treatment from the ERO staff that they filed a PIL in the High Court of Karnataka. During the progress of the case, the ERO of Mahadevapura has submitted an affidavit to the High Court, accepting that 66% of the online applications for voter registration were rejected without reason.
The other side of the story is that Mahadevapura constituency is one among the leaders in the number of new registrations, thanks to the citizen-led Million Voter Rising campaign. See my blog post here on the subject. Such high number of registrations even while the authorities desist from registering when citizens approach them raises a suspicion that the entries are not genuine and were done in bulk. The suspicion becomes stronger with the ugly example of Rajarajeshwari Nagar where thousands of Form-6 acknowledgements were found in one house.
On 26 Feb 2018, I wrote to the CEO-KA showing with numbers and bar charts that certain constituencies indicate very high addition of voters. As per ECI guidelines, if the additions are higher than 4% or the deletions are more than 2% in a part, the matter should be investigated. Such investigations were never done to the best of my knowledge.
In an earlier post I had written how CEO-KA makes data access difficult. Since then, accessing data on his website has become far worse with pathetic slow response and navigation buttons taking the visitors to strange pages, suggestive of a hacked site.
CEO-KA was to distribute Photo Voter Slips. Many voters did not get these slips though he had assured in an email that he would ensure the distribution of voter slips. To know their polling booths before heading out to vote, people tried to seek the data at CEO-KA website. The site would not open.
Houses Divided by CEO-KA
The second pages of the electoral rolls give a map of the area covered in the part (booth). All the houses in that map should be in the part. This is not the case, alas!
My sister lives with her son and daughter-in-law. The three of them are in three different parts. Abracadabra! The CEO-KA has made one physical house to appear in three areas simultaneously. My daughter’s parents-in-law are happily married and live under one roof for the past 39 years – but not as per the electoral rolls. They are in different booths.
Errors lead to confusion and disenfranchisement.
Officially Fake Data
Because CEO-KA sight has been mostly not responsive for the past few months, it is natural for a citizen to look for other places to find his voter data. Search for ‘voter-search’ easily takes us to National Voters Services Portal (http://electoralsearch.in) of ECI. Current data on this site is of Jan 2017. Lakhs of voters added since then do not appear on the rolls and those who are deleted show up as active. The part and voter serial numbers have since changed. To add insult to the injury, the results from the site also state ‘updated on <the date of query>’ making us to believe that the data is the latest, hosted by the supreme authority on the conduct of elections.
This is not a new issue. Sine Jan 2016 I have been writing to ECI and CEO-KA that their data are not synchronised. Several times during the past few months I requested the ECI and CEO-KA not to show any data for Karnataka electors at NVSP site if they cannot synchronise the right data. Even on the day of elections, NVSP continued to mislead the voters.
These are some of the issues reflecting KABBP (Knowledge, Attitude, Beliefs, Behaviour and Practice – an ECI phrase aimed at the citizens) of the CEO-KA. In this situation, if the real voter turnout was higher than 70%, I would suspect some other malpractices.