polling day

The refuse-to-vote option was exercised / attempted in
at least twenty booths today (I have yet to hear form
some others who were speaking of it on the weekend).
* At only one of these booths (Kalkaji, South Delhi)
polling officers knew the procedure and at only one
other (in Vasant Kunj, Outer Delhi) that the provision
existed. All others ? including in Chirag Enclave
(South Delhi) (from where two electors had made
representations seeking public clarification on Friday
and had received a call from CEC on Saturday) electors
had to draw attention to the procedure (which, as
confirmed to one of those who called EC in the course
of the day, is not covered in instructions to polling
officers).
* There were relatively problem-free experiences in
one booth in Vasant Kunj (where three electors arrived
together and aggressively asked the polling officers
to refer to p.61 of the handbook) and Giri Nagar
('slum' in south Delhi) and Lakshmi Nagar
(unauthorised colony in East Delhi).
* In Jasola (Outer Delhi), Swasthya Vihar (East Delhi)
and two places in Vasant Kunj, polling officers,
presumably influenced by newspaper reports, spoke
about and searched for Form-17A, not realising it was
the register of voters. (We learned that in Karol Bagh
an elector, unaware of the refuse-to-vote procedure
and not persuaded about it after the polling staff
found it out, absolutely insisted on filling
Form-17A).
* Even after being shown Chapter XX in his handbook,
the Presiding Officer in Patel Nagar (West Delhi)
refused to sign the refuse-to-vote entry in the
remarks column despite the elector's insistence. In
Jasola also the Presiding Officer did not sign. (Calls
were made to EC in both cases)
* In Swasthya Vihar and one place in Vasant Kunj some
fuss was made about numbering (which the handbook
clearly says is unaffected by the refuse-to-vote
procedure) and at one place the elector refusing to
vote was refused ink mark and had to make an issue of
that.
* In all cases the option could not be exercised
unobtrusively and in nearly all cases there were
irritating remarks about the decision to refuse to
vote and then to refuse to simply stay home. In
Masudpur (urban village in Outer Delhi) an elector who
said he would not allow polling if not allowed to
exercise his right to refuse-to-vote was told a
complaint would be lodged against him for booth
capturing.
* In one place in Vasant Kunj and one place in Yamuna
Pushta (New Delhi) electors inclined to refuse-to-vote
but not inclined to make a scene did not press.
* In Rangpuri Pahari ('slum' in Outer Delhi), from
where a representation specifically seeking
unobtrusive use of the option was made on Friday (with
reference to previous experience of fielding a proxy
candidate to vote for an issue and winning at these
booths), there was intimidation. After a call made to
EC at about 10 am, by when two dozen electors had
exercised the refuse-to-vote option, returned the
advice that they stay home, others inclined to use it
made choice between leaving their vote open to misuse
or being compelled to vote dart-board style.

I was in Rajghat Pushta between 9:00 and 12:00.
Polling stations looked empty compared with the
teeming 'voluntary resettlement camps'. I met enough
of those I had got to know while they were being
resettled to be able to ascertain that EC?s weekend
public notices had gone largely unnoticed and were, in
any case, considered redundant since they only provide
information about bus routes that all already knew and
also that many were not expected since they had
decided not to vote. Those who had come from other
places were amongst the ones still trying for
resettlement plots and had been approached by
politically active ones (key in the 'bonded-voter'
theory) on their trips to MCD offices, etc, with
assurances of expediting their cases. (Elsewhere in
Pushta there have been stunning pre-poll negotiations
last week).






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