It has been close to seven months since Telangana went to polls and re-elected the Telangana Rastra Samithi (TRS). During and post elections, there were several allegations of malpractices like people casting votes on behalf of dead voters, usage of cell phones inside polling booths, and polling agents caught carrying 200 voter ID cards.
Now, the Telangana State Election Commission has investigated these allegations, and has shut them down saying there is nothing "substantial" about them.
In February this year, the state EC began an inquiry into allegations of poll mismanagement. Documents obtained through Right to Information (RTI) by Swecha, a non-profit organization that works for open data and free internet, show that the state EC sought reports from poll officials concerned. The reports that were sent to the Telangana Chief Electoral Officer Rajat Kumar's office were forwarded to respective zonal offices from where the complaints were reported. However, they were allegedly closed with little or no further inquiry, and that was the end of the matter for the state EC.
Votes cast in name of dead voters
While there were several allegations of votes being cast in the name of dead persons, the EC looked into only a few. One of them was a vote allegedly cast by Jennapalli Narsimhareddy who had already died three-and-a-half years ago. The name was supposedly found despite requests to delete it thrice, and a voter slip was allegedly issued in Jennapalli’s name by the office of the Siddipet District Electoral Officer (DEO), an election-related post held by district collectors.
However, the then Siddipet Collector, D Krishna Bhaskar in his report to the state EC said the dead person’s name was present in the voter list of Chinnakistapur in Jagdevpur mandal as the concerned Booth Level Officer (BLO) had not reported the death. "On verification of records, officials claim they found that no voter slip was distributed and no vote was cast on behalf of the dead elector on the poll day," Bhaskar wrote in his report.
Further, TDP candidate Nama Nageswara Rao had alleged on the day of the polls that TRS candidate and present MLA Puvvada Ajay Kumar was forcing around 200 students studying at Mamatha Medical College in Khammam to vote for him in the name of dead voters.
Videos had also emerged of the TDP candidate Nama Nageswara Rao questioning the Block Development Officer for catching a student possessing a voter slip which that was not in her name. In his letter to the CEO, DEO RV Karnan wrote, "The students have stated that they were studying in Mamatha Medical College and were forced to support its owner." The college is owned by Puvvada Ajay Kumar.
Based on the DEOs instructions, the Returning Officer conducted an inquiry in the presence of the complainant on December 8, 2018, and found that none the allegations are substantial and deserve no consideration.
Allegations of rigged voting
There was also controversy around a video of a man caught carrying over 200 voter ID cards in Gajwal Assembly constituency in Siddipet district. The man was supposedly one K Ramesh, a Booth Level Officer (BLO).
Bhaskar’s report, however, said that reports of BLO carrying 200 voter IDs is false. "No BLO is working in the name of K Ramesh in Gajwel Assembly constituency," the Siddipet collector said.
Another news report that had gone viral at the time was of a cell phone video taken from inside a polling booth at Sanathnagar in Hyderabad. It was alleged that a Block Development Officer helped an elderly woman cast her vote for the TRS. However, the inquiry report said that this was simply a man helping his mother cast her vote, and not a government official.
The Returning Officer of Sanathnagar Assembly constituency in his report to the state EC explained that an old woman came to the polling station around 1 pm along with her son to assist her. The officer stated that he was not aware of the use of cell phones inside the polling station as there was a big rush in the queue on polling day. The officer further stated that he and his polling officers had not entered the room with the EVM, and the allegation made against them was false and incorrect.
The polling officials also denied any Block Development Officers visiting the polling station during that day. The state EC even asked the Chief Editor of the Deccan Chronicle for video evidence but was not provided with one. The allegations were dismissed as no further action was warranted.