KOCHI: State Chief Electoral Officer Teeka Ram Meena and actor Mammootty hit the headlines after missing out on an opportunity to vote in the local body polls this time as their names did not figure in the voters’ list despite them having exercised their franchise in the last general elections.
Worse was in store for hundreds of others who had to return without casting their votes, even after standing in long queues. Some of them protested while others lodged complaints with the presiding officers. The officers told them that nothing could be done at the last minute.
The polls this time are based on the voters’ list prepared for the 2015 civic body elections. The state poll panel decided not to use the 2019 list used for the Lok Sabha elections as it was busy with the delimitation work and also due to the huge cost involved. Kerala Election Commissioner V Bhaskaran said the fault lay with the voters as they did not bother to check the draft voters’ list prepared by the panel. “
From January, we have been updating the voters’ list, giving them the opportunity to enrol. We publish the draft list for the public, but nobody checks it.
Venugopal Prabhu, who travelled with his wife from Thiruvananthapuram to Kochi to vote in Division 44 of the corporation, begged to differ. He had come to know that their names were not in the updated voters’ list a month ago. They filed an application before the election officer and attended the hearing at the corporation office.
The officer informed them that both names will be included in the list and they can cast their votes, but on reaching the booth, he found that his wife’s name was missing from the list. She returned home disappointed. “What kind of democracy is this? This is a clear case of ineptitude. We have voted during the Parliament and panchayat elections,” he lamented.
Mary K J, an employee with the Kochi Corporation, said it was for the first time that she could not cast her vote in an election. “I had never missed voting. I had voted in the 2016 assembly elections and the 2019 general elections,” said a visibly dismayed Mary, a longtime resident of Nayarambalam . “This is not acceptable. I have all the documents.
I sought the officials’ help, but they were helpless.” Madhusoodhanan, an election agent of Congress candidate Pious Joseph in Division 35 of the Kochi Corporation, said around 65 voters returned home disappointed. He asked whether the “name missing” was a ploy. “Many names were deleted following the intervention of our rival political parties,” said Madhusoodhanan.
N K Salim, a CPM leader who had been supervising the campaigning of LDF candidate M S Sulfath in the 69th division of the Kochi Corporation, said many voters were seen returning from the polling booths. BJP central zone secretary C G Rajagopal said nearly 20 voters lost their chance to vote in Division 64 in Kochi.
“They took the risk of coming out during the time of Covid and stood in queues. Their disappointment was palpable when the polling officers informed them that their names were not in the list,” said Rajagopal.