No matter who comes to power, these people were denied their say in it
Everybody who was somebody (or not) said you just had to go out and get your finger inked. The stage was set, the news cameras rolled in. But they didn’t account for the last minute anti-climax: the curious case of missing names on the voter list. Here are five people who filled in their forms, lined up, only to be told they could not vote
BETWEEN THE VOTE AND THE SLIP
Abhimanyu Rawlley, 30, software professional, Gurgaon
They had the voter ID but not the ‘slip’. “I went with my parents to vote, only to find my name was not on the voter’s list,” says a visibly-disappointed Rawlley. They scanned four lists, Polling officials with laptops searched the database. But they couldn’t find their names. “We have voter IDs and voted five years ago. I was told this was to be expected as I had not received a ‘slip’,” he adds.
A policeman said flying squads of election commissioners might help. “No squad flew our way. Political party men couldn’t help either. We learnt from neighbours in Sushant Lok that only those with recent voter IDs or those who registered through the resident welfare association (RWA) had names on the list,” says Rawlley. “The next day’s paper had the poll panel’s clarification that voters had to respond to some survey or their names would be removed. But there was no survey. People say Sushant Lok votes do not influence results, so parties don’t make the effort to give us slips. We’ll take it up with the RWA,” he says, determination writ large.
HE DROVE MILES, BUT WAS TAKEN FOR A RIDE
Arijit Sengupta, 26, copywriter, Faridabad
The Senguptas recently shifted to the Delhi suburb of Faridabad from Rohini. But on election day, Arijit Sengupta drove all the way to his old address to vote. “It was a conscious decision,” he says. He has in the past voted during Delhi Assembly elections. “This time I was very keen to vote—I didn’t want to be left behind in the Mahakumbh of Democracy,” he says. But he couldn’t, as his name was missing from the voter list. He says he checked over and over and stopped by at several polling booths, but his name had just disappeared. “I was very disappointed,” he says. “I took the pain to stay back when I could have gotten away for the extended weekend (polling in Delhi fell on a Thursday). It is frustrating,” Sengupta adds.
“The government ran so many campaigns to encourage people to vote, but they didn’t care about people like me who went to vote on their own,” he says. But Sengupta is determined. He says he will make sure that he gets to vote next time round. Even if that means driving again to faraway Rohini.
DAYS AFTER SURGERY, HE WENT TO VOTE
Govind Swarup, 61, former bureaucrat, Mumbai
Three days after he was discharged from the hospital following a surgery, former bureaucrat Govind Swarup was determined to go out. He just had to vote. But in spite of searching various booths in Juhu (his locality) Swarup and his family did not find their names on the voter’s list. This was after they had followed all the required procedures for registering their names.
“It was very disappointing. I felt deprived of my basic right. All the forms were in order, and we were hoping to cast our vote. Only when we went to the booth did we realise that our names did not figure on the list. We were angry but there was no point in arguing with the staff at the booth,” says Swarup.
In the 36 years that Swarup has been in government service, he has never abstained from voting. Even when he was travelling as an election observer, Swarup made it a point to vote through postal ballot. Ironically, this was his first election after retirement and he couldn’t exercise his franchise as his name was missing from the list.
ANGRY THAT SHE COULDN’T VOTE FOR CHANGE
Ishani Roy, 21, student, Mumbai
Final-year Arts student at St Xavier’s, Mumbai, Ishani Roy was excited about voting for the first time. She’d also volunteered for voter-awareness campaigns. So understandably, she could not believe it when she found her name missing from the list.
She did everything right to get her name registered. “I visited the municipal school in my area, procured the requisite form, attached all documents and personally submitted them last November, lists Roy. “I pursued officials to check if the documents were in order and went personally to check the list.”
“I have been to the main election office at least five times to see if my name was on the list. They kept saying it would be on the next list. It’s very disappointing. Actually I’m angry that I could not vote for change,” says Roy.
“I looked at this election very seriously because after all that happened, it was the right time for my generation to wake up. How come the names of slum dwellers are never missing? How come it is always people like us who are at the receiving end?” asks Roy.
TOLD OTHERS TO VOTE, BUT COULD NOT HIMSELF
Suhas Kodiyalamath, 20, student, Mumbai
Suhas Kodiyalamath is young, swears by democracy and juggles studies to campaign for voter awareness. Yet, when it came to his own ballot, he couldn’t cast it. “I was part of this campaign called ‘I Vote’. We helped people register their names. We would submit all filled-in forms to the Election Commissioner’s office. I too, filled in the relevant forms and submitted them.”
“Since I’d registered my name well in advance, I was sure it would be there on the voter list. On polling day, when I went to the booth in my colony, I didn’t see my name. I was angry and irritated. Despite doing everything, my name was not there. We are gathering names of those who were not on the list and then we’ll file a PIL,” says Kodiyalamath.
Despite his disappointment, Suhas feels the campaign has helped him become a more responsible citizen. “I do not think I will ever take elections lightly,” says Kodiyalamath.
Rahul Pandita and Shivam Vij in New Delhi and Haima Deshpande in Mumbai