The ruling dispensation has managed to give Pune a bad name again. If Suresh Kalmadi’s shenanigans in the Commonwealth Games scam, bomb blasts, arrests of terrorists, attacks against students from other states, were not enough to embarrass Puneities, along comes the latest – the great election scam.

For the past decade the ruling party’s politicians have taken the citizens of Pune for a ride and the latest incident should be the proverbial last straw on the camel’s back. One look at Pune’s newspapers today will give you the answer. Hundreds of thousands of voters found their names missing from the Pune parliamentary constituency list – in some cases, entire housing societies. And surprisingly, all these names were from areas predominantly known for their mass non-Congress vote banks. And was all this only because the candidate from the ruling party was terrified of losing the election?

The Times of India on Friday quoted the Pune Police Commissioner Satish Mathur as saying that between one and two lakh citizens were left stranded on Election Day, and even he could not vote! I personally know of voters who found their names missing and dutifully filled in the documents again and again, to still find their names missing from the final list when they went to vote. I also know of people living in Dahanukar Colony who complained over and over again to the officials concerned, about this anomaly, but their pleas were conveniently ignored. It’s pretty obvious now, why this was done. My wife submitted her documents and photograph from one constituency but her name was missing from the rolls. She found her name in another constituency! And law abiding citizens that they are, they took it on the chin and quietly went home. Had this been Bihar or Uttar Pradesh, some of these leaders and officials would have been dragged out on the streets and beaten black and blue!

I wouldn’t just call it an act of incompetence, but a deliberate attempt to subvert the only democratic practice the people have left to teach politicians a lesson. That BJP candidate Anil Shirole is planning a hunger strike to protest the mass deletions of voters’ names is an indication of who is behind the huge scam. Journalist and activist Vinita Deshmukh has filed an RTI in this regard and is also leading a protest in front of the collectorate. Shwetank Upadhyaya has stated on Facebook that “names of selected people” have been deleted from the voters’ list… “76,000 estimated voters from Kothrud alone.” If true, it is the biggest act of election fraud witnessed in the city.

Some friends of my wife told her how supporters of a party came to their home in Yerawada, with voting slips neatly folded with a thousand rupee note inside. One had also read how teachers of a particular educational institution belonging to a State minister were nabbed while they were distributing money to voters. Nothing new there, but still…

I was also told by journalist friend that the local administration turned around and asked the angry politicians and voters why they did not ensure that names were there. I know for a fact that many did and were assured there names would be on the list on election day. But that still begs the question, ‘why were over a lakh of voters deleted from the list?’. One also heard that a large number of AAP donors found their names missing.

The other issue is one of redrawing the boundaries of the constituency. Why, for example, is Hadapsar Assembly constituency moved to Shirur? What earthly reason do I have to suddenly vote for some candidate in Shirur, who I have never heard of, when I have lived all my life in Pune? Did the candidates who were contesting from Shirur even bother to visit my area to see how it was doing, or will they do so in the next five years? All these months we had been bombarded with messages to vote for Kadam, Ware, Shirole and Paigude. On voting day I looked at the EVM to discover that none of the above was on the list and some totally strange names were there instead, who I didn’t really know but was forced to vote for.

Shockingly, I found my name on the voters list in both Shirur and Pune constituencies, while my wife found her name in Wanowrie and not in Hadapsar, where we now live! I thought the whole point of the exercise was to vote for a candidate of MY CHOICE and not who the administration decides will be my candidate at the eleventh hour. So some candidate benefited from one vote which he wasn’t expecting, while I am, literally, forced to vote for a candidate who I don’t know from Adam, and will probably never see or will never be able to approach for the next five years.


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