For 20-year-old Talib Khan, the excitement of being a first-time voter fizzled out as he could not register himself in the voters’ list this time. He, however, accompanied his parents on Tuesday to a polling station in Bal Bhavan school of Vadodara where the displaced residents of Kalyan Nagar are registered.
“We used to live in Kalyan Nagar. My parents are registered voters here. Since our homes were demolished and we did not have an address, I had applied for a voter ID card on our rental address, but I did not find my name in the list there,” said Talib, adding that the administration displaced the residents in a hurry without thinking of the long-term impact like this.
“I wish they had handled this better. The way they have left us on streets without any accountability or need to expedite the construction of our homes speaks a lot about their intent,” he said.
Ali Hussain (52), who had cast his vote during 2017 Gujarat Assembly polls, also found his name missing on Tuesday. “I have shifted to a rental accommodation in Hathikhana and came here to vote without any second thought because my name was present in the Assembly elections, but this time it is missing. I was surprised and the officer told me that I should have been more careful and aware. Isn’t it their duty to make sure that they have contacted all the voters in the old lists,” Hussain said.
Though some were lucky, unlike Talib and Hussain, to have their names still listed in the voters’ list, casting vote on Tuesday, many said, was a mixed feeling.
“It feels good to find my name on the voter list after so many years, but I am not sure if I am as excited about voting because no one has been able to give justice to us. We are homeless for the last five years and our voices don’t matter,” said 55-year-old Habibullah Khan who is now living in a rented accommodation in Tandalja until the VMC completes the construction of an in-situ colony. The construction started in 2015, which however, stands suspended as of now.
For most of the residents, the voting day is more about fulfiling a duty. Unlike other booths in the city, the chatter at Bal Bhavan booth was not about politics, but more about seeing each other after several years. Until 2014, these voters lived in Kalyan Nagar settlement, just about 200 m from this polling booth.
Most displaced residents alleged that no election officers visited them ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. Arif Pathan, who has been one of the representatives of the Muslim families in their agitation to seek rehabilitation, said, they contacted all the residents from Kalyan Nagar and urged them to come to vote.
Vadodara District Electoral Officer Shalini Agarwal, however, said that all assistant returning officers had conducted camps in the run-up to the elections in order to ensure that no voter is left out.