For only the second time in the history of the Election Commission of India (EC), a high-level probe has been launched into the “selective deletion” of around 6.5 lakh voters in Hyderabad. The charge is that settlers of Andhra, who have been enrolled as voters in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), are being removed from the lists. There are around 60 lakh registered voters in the GHMC limits.
Taking the complaints seriously, the EC has rushed West Bengal Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Sunil Kumar Gupta to conduct a field level investigation to find out whether genuine voters were removed from the lists. Gupta, who will be assisted by a 14-member team of officials from outside the Telugu states, will be holding random surveys in the city in the next few days.
This is the first time in the history of Telangana, or for that matter in the Telugu states, that the EC has held a field level verification to investigate the complaints of “selective removal” of voters. Only once till now, in 2001, the EC had sent its then Secretary K.J. Rao to the Thakurdwara Assembly segment of Rampur Lok Sabha seat in Uttar Pradesh to look into similar complaints of “deliberate deletion” of genuine voters. Rao’s field visits then found the charges to be true and resulted in the suspension of the district election officer. The names of around 15,000 voters were restored by Rao’s team. The EC received complaints of deletion of genuine voters from hundreds of voters in the city through post and emails over the past few weeks.
As per a regular revision of voters lists, around 6.5 lakh voters’ names were found to be bogus in Hyderabad and they were served notices. The last date for filing objections has been fixed as 5 November. Telangana CEO Bhanwar Lal and GHMC Commissioner Somesh Kumar have supervised the revision of electoral rolls in Hyderabad.
The GHMC has estimated that there were 20 lakh bogus voters in the city. The electoral rolls of Hyderabad assume significance in view of the upcoming elections to the GHMC as well as a possible byelection to Sanathnagar Assembly seat by January end. Sanathnagar was won by Telegu Desam Party MLA T. Srinivas Yadav, who later switched over to the Telangana Rashtra Samithi and became a minister in the KCR Cabinet. Yadav is expected to be disqualified by the Assembly speaker soon.
Former MLA from Sanathnagar M. Sashidhar Reddy who was also the vice-chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority and senior BJP national vice-president N. Indrasena Reddy and BJP MLC N. Ramachander Rao, too, lodged separate complaints on the removal of voters’ names in the city. Both Sashidhar Reddy and Ramachander Rao welcomed the EC’s decision to order field verification.
Bhanwar Lal and Somesh Kumar, on the other hand, refused to comment on the EC’s decision. However, Yadav, who holds the commercial taxes ministry, told The Sunday Guardian that the charges of selective deletion of voters were false. “These are baseless charges and are intended to create cheap sensation. Only bogus voters were eliminated in the city,” he said.
However, Sasidhar Reddy told this paper on Friday that the large scale removal of voters from the rolls was part of a political conspiracy hatched by the ruling party. “I received complaints from hundreds of genuine voters every day that their names were not included in spite of online submission of applications. The GHMC staff who revised the rolls was partial to the ruling party,” he said.
The ruling TRS, which has taken the upcoming GHMC polls seriously, is worried over its prospects in certain pockets like Kukatpally, Sanathnagar, Banjara Hills and Jubilee Hills where settlers from Andhra are concentrated. The present complaints of selective deletion of voters are mostly from these areas. The outcome of the EC’s field verification is expected only next week.