In an apparent bid to woo the city’s trading class, traditionally considered a BJP voting block, the AAP Saturday alleged that names of valid voters of the Baniya community have been selectively deleted from Delhi’s electoral list. The introduction of the caste dimension sparked a political slugfest with Union Minister Vijay Goel and Delhi BJP leaders wading into the issue to counter the Arvind Kejriwal-led party.
Key officials involved in the Election Commission’s survey of deleted voters in Lal Kuan and Harkesh Nagar maintained that the exercise did not throw up any evidence of wrongful bulk deletion of names. A senior official said that District Magistrate of southeast district, Naveen S L, has submitted a report of the survey to the Delhi Chief Electoral Officer’s Office.
The AAP has been alleging that names of around 30 lakh valid voters have been struck off by the Election Commission from the city’s electoral rolls between 2015 and 2018. The survey was conducted after Kejriwal raised the issue with former CEC OP Rawat.
Issue that forced poll commission to undertake a survey
The issue of deletion of voters’ names has been a vexed one over the years. In Delhi, AAP’s allegations on deletion of around 30 lakh valid names between 2015 and 2018 prompted a small survey by the Election Commission in a few areas of a South Delhi assembly constituency. While the result of the survey has not been released, former Chief Election Commissioner O P Rawat has emphasised that the verification exercise proved the ruling party wrong. Incidentally, the issue assumed the centrestage during the recently concluded Telangana state polls as well. In fact, there, the Chief Electoral Officer had to issue an apology after complaints poured in from across the state on the polling day.
On Saturday, Kejriwal sparred with Goel and Leader of Opposition in the Delhi Assembly Vijender Gupta on Twitter over the issue. The BJP leaders said AAP was indulging in politics of caste by dragging in a particular community.
As soon as Kejriwal tweeted, nearly every senior leader of AAP put up similar tweets, tagging BJP as an “anti-Baniya party”.
“Vijay Goel should answer the reason behind BJP deleting the names of four out of eight lakh Baniya voters in Delhi. The traders are in dire straits due to policies like note ban and GST implemented by the BJP. This is why Baniyas are not voting for the BJP this time. But does that mean you will snatch away their right to vote?” Kejriwal tweeted.
Goel shot back, saying the AAP was using the Baniya community as political fodder. “Indulging in such politics of caste is not right,” he tweeted.
An official in the south district administration said no instance of wrongful deletion came up during the survey, covering around 200 polling booths, which was videographed and had representation of all recognised political parties.
“Deletion and addition of voters is a continuous process… This year, the process commenced on September 1 with the publication of draft rolls. Subsequently, claims and objections were invited. If such wrongful deletions have been happening since 2015, why did the AAP not raise the issue earlier?” an official said.