Dharmapuri district election authorities have taken steps to include nearly 23,000 electors additionally in the electoral rolls of Pennagaram Assembly constituency. During the 100 per cent field verification carried out in the constituency recently, 3,394 missing names of voters were identified and action was taken to include them.

This was in addition to the acceptance of about 19,500 claims for inclusion in the rolls when the annual summary revision (with January 1, 2010 as the qualifying date) was conducted last month.

“If the poll had been held as scheduled earlier [January 20, 2010], it would have resulted in nearly 23,000 voters not being able to exercise their right of franchise,” Chief Electoral Officer Naresh Gupta told a press conference at the Secretariat here.

[On December 22, the Election Commission had announced that the by-election to the Pennagaram constituency would take place on January 20. In response to representations of certain political parties, the Commission, a week later, decided to postpone the election.]

According to the draft rolls published on January 5, the total strength of electorate was 1,79,536 (men 97,979; women 87,557).

Asked for his reaction to the criticism in certain quarters that he was acting in favour of All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) general secretary Jayalalithaa, Mr. Gupta replied that political leaders were entitled to have their opinion.

“As the Chief Electoral Officer, I have to discharge my duties impartially and independently. In the process, some people may or may not be happy.”

The consistent stand of the Commission was that parties and candidates, irrespective of their strength, should be treated alike. They had to be put on the “same, equal footing.” No discrimination could be made.

Mr. Gupta explained that as for the enrolment of electors whose names were missing in the rolls and who were working in other areas such as Bangalore, Tirupur and Hosur, the stand taken by the authorities was that only those who had family linkage could be included in the rolls. This was based on the assumption that the families of such persons who had gone out of the constituency on work for a temporary period would be present in the constituency.

As for the reduction in the number of electors as compared to 2006, the CEO said that during the preparation of photo electoral rolls in 2006-2007, a number of electors who were absent had been deleted.

Field verification

This was done on the basis of field verification carried out by the local staff.

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