Lakhs of duplicate names and fake entries in the voters list for Legislative Assembly elections in Kerala is a massive fraud on the people of the State.
The initial estimates are that the number of duplicate entries, which can be used for voting by impersonation, is above four lakhs. There is also the allegation that migrant workers had been enlisted without following procedure and checking their status properly.
It is surprising that the electoral officers had not cared to check for duplicate entries at least in the same constituency not to speak of duplicate entries across constituencies. This is when computer technologies these days make it easy to find duplicate entries, though Malayalam script and variations may make it a little difficult than in English.
The existence of large number of duplicate entries came to public knowledge when Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala raised the issue and accused the ruling front of complicity. Apparently, he had been assisted by someone skilled in analysis and comparing of large chunks of data.
It is not surprising that the things have come to such a pass, given the lackadaisical manner in which the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Kerala, handled data. This had not started in recent years. As back as in the nineties, total votes polled and the sum of the votes polled by individual candidates did not tally in certain cases. In one of the election reportage, published by the ECI, the numbers did not tally in more than 25 constituencies. Though this was brought to the notice of the CEO, he did not correct them and they still remain as the official tally. By 1996, computers came into use in compiling data and the figures. Data, which could not be validated, were artificially tallied by adjusting invalid and uncounted votes.
In the 2016 Assembly elections, some data in the Constituency data summary, officially released by the Election Commission (especially that of electors and votes polled), do not match with the detailed results published by ECI. There were also variations with detailed results published on the Web at the time of announcement of results.
The CEO’s Office has been reluctant to release computer-processable data, which can be used for data validation, despite an order by the State Information Commission under the RTI Act. (The accompanying image shows the operative part of the order of the Commission dated May 29 last year which is yet to be complied with). These were symptoms of deeper malady.
Despite all the improvement of communication facilities, the CEO office often has not been able to come out with correct percentage of polling on the polling day itself. The number of electors supplied before and after polling often varied as last minute enrollments and deletions were not either properly updated or were plainly incorrect.
Now, it is going to be an uphill task for the election officials to delete lakhs of duplicate and fake entries and furnish the count. There is also the issue of bogus or multiple electoral identity cards issued in the name of the same person. It is not going to be easy to find them and destroy them. This raises the prospect of miscarriage of the electoral verdict.
Though the irregularities could not have happened to this scale without the connivance of officials, a proper inquiry is yet to be conducted. So far action had been taken against only one official though many need to be removed from playing any role in the elections. Meanwhile Mr. Chennithala has approached the High Court seeking action.