The Big Voting Day at Bangalore: a lookback

Banner controversies, distribution of money and promotional materials etc were reported from here and there. Citizens seemed to be more focussed on candidates, rather than parties.

It was the big day for all Bangaloreans and considering the number of civic organisations such as BPAC, CIVIC, Namma Bengaluru Foundation, etc, the voter turnout was expected to be at an all time high. Post voting day, the voter turnout was pegged at 56.47%, 55.7% and 55.69% in Bengaluru North, Central and South constitiuencies respectively.

Though this figure is almost 10% higher than the polling percentage for the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, it is less that the average Assembly election voting percentage in 2013 (58.27%) and the state voting average of 67.28%. 

Citizens waiting at a booth in Malleshwaram at 7.30 am on April 17, 2014. Pic: Shree D N

Voter turnout affected by usual problems

Problems such as people not finding their name on the voter list, not being able to vote due to errors in voter list, EVMs not working etc were reported in various booths.

Elsie S Velu, a woman voter, found that her gender was changed to ‘male’ and that her name was misspelt as ‘LCN Velu’ in the voter list and the slip. The relative’s name was her husband’s name, but the relation mentioned was ‘father.’ She could therefore not vote.

The Election Commission, this time, has increased booths in proportion to number of voters, but this was not communicated to all voters. This resulted in people not finding their names in the booths where they had voted the last time.

At 7.30 am, at St Joseph’s Convent in Whitefield, Kaushal Kishore Jain and Shweta Jain, middle-aged residents from a local apartment complex, were seen running pillar to post looking for their voting entries. Both had EPIC cards, and clearly printed ID numbers. Their part number was 134, and serial numbers were 976 and 977. But the polling booths at the convent were 191, 192, 193 and 194. The booth staff sent them out saying their names were not on the rolls there, when the Jains had clearly come with their voter slips printout as well the their EPIC cards. They had voted in last election at the same venue as well. They finally found that the part number in the voter slip was wrong, by using the SMS service offered by the Election Commission . The SMS sent them the correct part number 193 with a different serial number.

At Jakkasandra, P U Vidyadhara, an accountant, was seen struggling with his re-registration acknowledgement slip as he did not receive his voter ID card. He was not even sure whether his name was in the voting list as the CEO website was not working. However, with the help of party stalls that were placed near the polling booth, he could locate his name on the list. With a big smile on his face, he stood in the queue for his turn.

Election Commission rules allow only two persons to sit in a party stall near a booth. But this rule wasn’t followed in many places. Pic: Nikita Malusare

Parties court controversy with banners

Though the temporary party offices (stalls) that were up put by political parties proved to be helpful for many who had no idea whether their names existed in the voting list or not, some of the stalls flouted the model code of conduct.

The code of conduct announced by the CEO in a press conference held recently, specified that only one banner of size 3×4 feet could be put up and this could display the name of the candidate, his party and the election symbol and that it should be 200 meters away from the polling booth.

However, Congress party members in Bangalore South alleged that the party banners on the BJP’s party stalls flouted the election code of conduct, as they not only had the candidate’s picture, but also Modi’s picture on it.

A day before the elections, the Election Commission office instructed the parties that no images would be allowed on the banners except the party symbol and the candidate’s name. However, Nandan Nilekani’s team found a violation of these rules in the BJP’s banners.

According to the model code of conduct, booklets or pamphlets which contain promotional material for a party or a candidate, should also have details like the name of the publisher, address of the publisher, number of copies printed etc. However, none of these were followed by BJP, said a press note by Nandan Nilekani’s office.

The ink that wasn’t indelible !

At one of the booths near Jakkasandra, an employee of Citizen Matters spotted a man hugging another and giving him Rs 1000. He then said, “I had been to your house, but you were not there. So I came here.” After which, the man who received the  money went inside the booth.

Another Citizen Matters employee noticed that the indelible ink wasn’t thick, but a lot more diluted than it was during the last election. She went home and tried erasing it with the help of nail polish remover — alas, the indelible ink disappeared completely! On checking with her friends, she found out that one of them had been able to wash it off with water, though a slight stain still remained.

Another friend said the ink went away when she was washing utensils using a bar soap! This was reported to Bangalore North Election Observer, Alok Agarwal at 9 am, who noted the booth numbers and assured he would take the required action.

AAP banners removed by police

Prithvi Reddy, an executive member of Aam Aadmi Party, Karnataka, pointed out that all the stalls across the city had more than two members sitting at the table, which was against the EC rules that said only only there could be only one table, with two members manning it and one banner. “Their table had more than two people,” said Prithvi Reddy.

He added that there were objections, first by the police and later by party members, to volunteers wearing caps and putting party banners near the polling booth. He said, “Even after having proper permission, police did not listen to us. It is only when we complained to the Police Commissioner who took cognisance and instructed the police officers, that they (police) allowed us to use banners. After this, the members of other parties started objecting.”

AAP volunteers reported similar problems at parts of Bangalore Central and South – Gandhinagar, Kodichikkanahalli, Bommanahalli etc as well.

AAP has also complained to Chief Election Officer of Karnataka on gross misuse of state machinery by other political parties to harass AAP volunteers.

AAP volunteers manhandled in Bangalore Rural

At Mayaganahalli, Bangalore Rural, AAP volunteers were handled roughly by other party members. Prithvi Reddy said, “Instead of taking action, the election officer recorded the incident and asked us to file a complaint. Both the leading parties were openly flouting the rules, but police didn’t take any action.”

Citing examples of how rules were flouted across booths, Reddy said, “Money was being distributed at several booths — at K R Puram, Congress was distributing cash, while BJP was distributing cash at Bommanahalli. At Bommanahalli, an auto rickshaw was parked near the booth. People walked towards the auto, collected cash openly and went to booth to cast their vote. But nobody took action.”

Ravikrishna Reddy, Bangalore Rural AAP candidate, staged an all-night protest along with other AAP volunteers. He urged the Election Commission to hold repolls. He has alleged that the Deputy Commissioner of Police and Superintendent of Police colluded with the followers of D K Shivakumar and D K Suresh, the Congress leaders, to derail the elctoral process by distributing money and alcohol. Remarkably, Bangalore Rural has seen 68% voting this time.

When we called the BJP Media Manager to know what violations were by other parties were noted by them, he said: “Voting is done, elections are over.”

VVPAT works smoothly

Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines were installed as a pilot project at Bangalore South polling stations. Many voters appreciated the technology for the reason that they could verify their vote had been recorded properly. Aida D’Cunha, social activist was happy with the VVPAT system. He stated, “It was good move to ensure that your vote has been properly recorded.”

There were reports of VVPAT not working properly in around 55 booths. These were replaced soon by the Election Commission to facilitate smooth procedures. Overall nobody had a problem with the machine, though in some areas people complained of delay because of the system.

Sandhya Manjunath, an HR professional, posing with her inked finger. Pic: Nikita Malusare

Party for some, candidates for others

Many youngsters were seen at the booths. Most of them seemed to be well-informed voters who did their research on party and candidate manifestos. Sandhya Manjunath, a HR professional, said, “This elections is indeed about choosing the right candidates, but at the end of the day, the party that rules the nation will matter. Media reports, what you see on television and read in newspaper certainly has effect on our decision. But, I made my own independent decision. Like if you look back, I haven’ voted for the same party as my father.”

Savind C and Durgha Murugeshwar shifted to Bangalore a few months ago. For both of them, the candidate’s achievements and vision was more important than the party. The candidate they expected to do a better work for the constituency, won their vote. Savind, a marketing professional, said, “I was clear with what I wanted. Then I looked up online, about the work done by candidates and what plans they had for the city.”

Aida D’Cunha is a social activist while Jovita D’Cunha, her daughter, is a student, who has voted for the second time. For both, what mattered was the candidate’s background and vision for their assembly and nation over all. Their source of information has been the personal interaction with the candidates at their apartment, television and newspaper reports.

Balaram T, an IT engineer, has been voting since 2008. “City development is equally important. I made my choice on the basis of what work the candidate has done in this area.”

Pratima Reddy, social activist, had joined hands against corruption. She is presently doing her Masters in Urban Development at R V college. “Let’s move forward, let’s move away from religion. We have been talking about developing the country for so long, but now let us focus to develop, enough of talking. For me it is about the candidate. I have checked their track record, then made a decision. The parties are same everywhere. We need a change in the system, we need to get rid of corruption.”

She was very excited with the number of people who came out to vote, “It is good to see that so many people have come out to vote. I haven’t seen such a turn out in the past two years. I can see that many voters are informed.”

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