Election authorities have rejected around 13,000 claims for inclusion in the electoral roll for Pennagaram Assembly constituency, where by-election has been postponed. The claims were submitted when the annual summary revision of electoral roll, with January 1, 2010 as the qualifying date, was taken up early last month. In addition, during 100 per cent field verification, a number of missing names were identified.

After checking whether these names had been considered in the summary revision, action will be taken to include them, according to an Election Commission official.

Responding to representations from many political outfits and individuals, the Commission had allowed the authorities to complete the process of enquiry till February 17. It was in these circumstances that the publication of final roll for the constituency was postponed.

The field verification process was initiated following complaints during Lok Sabha elections 2009 about missing names in electoral roll. There were pleas to correct errors in electors’ entries and set right cases of mismatch of images.

This covered the Pennagaram constituency, where the summary revision was also taken up in view of the Commission’s decision, in late December, to postpone the by-election.

On the rationale behind these measures, the official says the Commission cannot hold any election with faulty rolls or without addressing concerns regarding the rolls.

The importance of electoral rolls, critical for ensuring a free and fair election, was underlined at the conference of Chief Electoral Officers last week and at an international symposium on best electoral practices about 10 days ago.

In a statement, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam president and Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi emphasised the need for election authorities to ensure impartiality in the conduct of polls.

In a democratic set-up characterised by electoral politics, there could be defects in contestants. Those entrusted with the responsibility of holding elections and correcting the defects should accord primacy to truth.

On postponement of the Pennagaram by-election and Pattali Makkal Katchi founder S. Ramadoss’ recent statement on the move to postpone the publication of final rolls, the Chief Minister said that if those who had to safeguard democracy and truth behaved in a partisan manner as observed by Dr. Ramadoss, one had to wonder whether it was a case of betrayal of trust.