For generations Jaspal Singh’s family have been supporters of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), with the 20-year-old, from Bandala Nau village in Zira Assembly segment of Ferozepur district, a member of Youth Akali Dal (YAD) himself. Jaspal says he was shocked when he found out that his name appears in the list of members and delegates of the Punjab Youth Congress (PYC).
“I have been associated with the Akali Dal. My family has always voted for the Akalis. Why would I join the Youth Congress? I am shocked to hear this. They had asked me for a copy of my Aadhar card saying it was needed for verification. I did not know they would use it for this purpose,” Jaspal, who has been allotted the Youth Congress membership number PB1500512776, told The Indian Express over phone.
He is not the only one. His friends also learnt that their names appear on the Youth Congress list, despite them being YAD members, indicating that the Youth Congress membership drive had been conducted fraudulently.
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And it is not just YAD members. An army personnel posted outside, a 15-year-old boy, who cannot be part of the Punjab Youth Congress (PYC) on account of being a minor, duplicate names and several ghost voters are all on the controversial list in the run up to the Youth Congress elections on August 8 and 9.
Despite a strong message from AICC vice president Rahul Gandhi that he wanted ghost and duplicate members cleaned out, The Indian Express accessed the PYC membership list and spoke to six people whose names Congress sources said also appeared in the YAD rolls.
The list was prepared after a recent membership drive by the Youth Congress amid orders from Rahul that each member would be required to attach identity proof along with the membership form. Investigations have revealed that documentary proof of identification were indeed provided but several of them were submitted by members of YAD. These double-members said they did not even know their name was on the Youth Congress list.
Narrating a story similar to Jaspal Singh, Harpreet Singh, a 26-year-old of the same village, said he has been made member without his knowledge. “We are dyed-in-the-wool Akalis. We would not even look at the Youth Congress,” he said. Harpreet has been given the PYC membership number of PB1500512737.
Two more youths from their village, Gurpreet Singh and Gurwinder Singh and four from Basti Punjab Singh Wali in the same Assembly segment, Dharminder Singh, Gurlal Singh, Harmeet Singh and Karamjit Singh, are also on the list despite being YAD members.
A resident of Kamalgarh Khurd village in Ferozepur, 15-year-old Kuldeep Singh is also a member of PYC, going against the party rules that only adults could be members. Baljeet Singh, a resident of Hammad Wala Hittar is an Army personnel. Gurdev Singh, the sarpanch of his village, has given an undertaking that on the day when the delegates were nominated, he was not present in the village.
A number of duplicate voters are also on the list. For instance, Jaswinder Singh of Mour Kussu Wala village appears twice on the list with same father’s name; Charanjit Kaur, a resident of Kohala village also appears twice. Similar is the case with Ranjodh Singh of the same village, who has been spelled as Ranijodhi Singh in the same list.
Raj Kataria, the PYC election commissioner in chief, however, said he had not received any complaint about ghost voters in the list. He added that he would look into it immediately when he receives a complaint. He also said that at times these errors are introduced by data entry operators.