Elections are under way amid slew of allegations; Minister claims he is helpless

Just over 12 per cent of the 51,500 registered doctors across the State voted in the controversial Karnataka Medical Council elections, being held after a gap of 17 years.

The elections have been mired in controversy, with allegations of foul play against the incumbent president, ever since they were declared earlier this month.

The last date for submission of votes in the elections, which are being held through postal ballot, was August 29. Counting began on Tuesday.

While the organisers claim that the low voter turnout was on account of indifference, a cross-section of doctors has charged that KMC president K. Chikkananjappa wilfully kept the numbers low to ensure his re-election. The ballot papers were sent to doctors by post.

Dr. Chikkananjappa dismissed the allegation and said that many doctors had not updated their addresses. Asked to react, Medical Education Minister S.A. Ramdas conceded that one of the primary jobs of the KMC was to maintain an updated registry of doctors.

No secret ballot

The fact that voting was not in keeping with the secret ballot, a key feature of any election, further strengthened the claims of detractors.

Aravind Gubbi, secretary of the Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association, who is also in the fray, said the ballot papers were numbered and attached with a declaration form, which had all the details of the voting doctor.

“Dr. Chikkananjappa is a powerful figure in the medical fraternity. Who would want to openly vote against him and run the risk of attracting his ire,” he sought to know.

While the identities of the voters was no secret, the counting — held in the basement of the KMC headquarters at Vaidyakeeya Bhavana in Basavangudi — was done behind closed doors. Media crews and even doctors were prevented from entering the counting centre.

“Counting for even gram panchayat elections is held in media view. What is the big secret in these elections,” asked a senior doctor, who is an office-bearer of the Karnataka Government Medical Officers' Association. He said the addresses of government doctors had not been updated since 2007. “We get transferred every two years,” he said.

Mr. Ramdas said he was helpless even though he was aware of large-scale irregularities in not just the elections but also the conduct of the KMC. “But as per law, I cannot act unless I have a written complaint. If we find sufficient grounds, we can even scrap the elections. But, we need a complaint,” he said.