The Election Commission discovers serious irregularities committed by the State administration in the electoral rolls of a Muslim-dominated Assembly segment in Uttar Pradesh.
The Election Commission has indicted the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government of Uttar Pradesh for the illegal deletion from the voters' list of the names of thousands of people belonging to a minority community. These names made way for those of members of the majority community in the Thakurdwara Assembly segment of Rampur Lok Sabha constituency. (Rampur has a predominant Muslim population.)
The E.C. received a complaint from Begum Noor Bano, Congress Member of Parliament from Rampur, in this connection on September 10. In view of the seriousness of the charges, K.J. Rao, Secretary to the E.C., was asked to hold a detailed inquiry. The official visited Thakurdwara on September 14 and 15 and discovered "serious irregularities" in the electoral rolls, which were committed with "mala fide intentions". In his report to the Commission, he said, "the inquiry revealed a shocking state of affairs inasmuch as the names of more than 15,800 persons belonging to a particular community were deleted unauthorisedly, without following the procedures laid down in the rules and in disregard of the directions of the Election Commission and of the Hon'ble Supreme Court." He also found that "an abnormally large number of names of about 21,000 persons belonging to another community were included without proper verification or inquiry, even in those cases where the applications in Form 6 were ex facie defective, being incomplete/ unsigned or signed by the same person in many cases."
In an unusually harsh indictment of a State government, the E.C. decided to conduct an intensive special revision of the electoral rolls in the Assembly constituency and recommended disciplinary action against the officials responsible for the irregularities. "Stern action should be taken against the District Election Officer, Electoral Registration Officer, Assistant Electoral Registration Officer and others," the report specified. Since large-scale violation of and disregard for existing rules and provisions in such a "reckless and cynical manner" could not have been possible without the involvement and active knowledge of the senior officers concerned, the E.C. has directed that S.K. Gupta, District Election Officer-cum-District Magistrate of Moradabad and at present a Special Secretary to the State government, be placed under suspension. Similarly it recommended that R.K. Singhal, Electoral Registration Officer-cum-Sub Divisional Magistrate, Thakurdwara, D.K. Sinha, the then-Tahsildar-cum-Assistant Electoral Registration Officer, Thakurdwara, and Satyendra Prakash, Naib Tahsildar, Thakurdwara, be suspended and penalty charge-sheet under the relevant rules be issued against all of them. The E.C. also directed the State government to transfer all other lower-level officials who were associated with the exercise and post officials with integrity in their places.
The E.C. specifically directed the State government to comply with its instructions by October 6, the day the intensive special revision of the electoral rolls was slated to begin. But until the time of writing this report, the State government had not taken any action in this regard. "The State government has not received the Election Commission's orders.We will certainly act upon it as and when we receive it, " an official said.
Chief Minister Rajnath Singh claimed he was not even aware of the case. Innocence personified, he told mediapersons, "I read about in the newspapers. I have no further information on this. But I will certainly look into it. I have asked the Chief Secretary to give me the details." K.J. Rao told Frontline that he had not been informed of any action against the officials concerned, but he hoped the State government would comply with the directive within the specified time.
Meanwhile, the Congress(I)'s strategy for the coming Assembly elections suffered a serious jolt with the death of Madhavrao Scindia who was to be the party's star campaigner. "He was the only one among the dynamic Congress leaders who had the charisma to attract crowds. We were depending on him a great deal to reach the voters," said Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee president Sriprakash Jaiswal. Scindia's death has left a void in the party's fortune in the State. Its campaign, which had taken off on September 18 in the form of Parivartan Yatras after initial organisational hiccups, came to a halt. These yatras, which were flagged off with fanfare from six places in Uttar Pradesh (Frontline, October 12, 2001), were supposed to culminate in a rally in Lucknow on October 4. The yatras failed to attract the crowds but Congressmen hoped that leaders like Scindia would give them some impetus and that any further shortfall would be made good by party president Sonia Gandhi's presence at the Lucknow rally. The yatra was suspended and the Lucknow rally postponed.
As for the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, other major contenders for power in U.P., the Centre's ban on the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and the combined Opposition uproar that the ban is "politically motivated" and meant to terrorise Muslims, have come as added campaign ammunition. The E.C. disclosures could not have come at a better time for these parties.