Alleged proxy voting reported at booth in Bengaluru South constituency

Three people at a booth in Bengaluru South told TNM that their votes had already been cast when they reached their booth.
Proxy voting reported at booth in Bengaluru South constituency
Proxy voting reported at booth in Bengaluru South constituency
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Multiple instances of alleged proxy voting were reported from a polling booth in BTM Layout in the Bengaluru South constituency, which is being contested by the BJP’s Tejasvi Surya and the Congress’s Sowmya Reddy. At least some of them were able to exercise their franchise under relevant rules after Congress leaders intervened. The exact number of such proxy votes could not be ascertained at the time of filing. 

Forty-year-old Sultana from Bengaluru's BTM Layout went to booth 195 to cast her vote on Friday, April 26, but found that it had already been registered. "When I went to the booth around 12.30pm election commission officials said that I had already cast my vote. I found that there were many others who were being told the same thing," said Sultana. 

When she questioned poll officials, one of them claimed that they couldn't identify her because she was wearing a burqa. A video of an altercation between voters and election officials also surfaced, showing the voters questioning the officials inside the booth. Two other voters from the same booth told TNM that they too found their votes had been cast by others.

Sultana says that election officials made her and the others wait for over two hours without informing them how they could exercise their votes. 

The exact number of such proxy votes could not be determined at the time of filing. Former mayor BN Manjunath Reddy who intervened at the booth claimed that 9 electors at that booth faced a similar situation. "When we asked officials to show the signatures of the proxies in the register, poll officials refused. After a lot of protest and argument, they finally let the people vote at 5.30pm," Reddy told TNM. 

However, an election official TNM spoke to, claimed only one incident had occurred. "Only one such vote has happened. We allowed a tender vote and not a challenged vote," the official said. After the incident came to light, the polling official was changed.

Reddy said that the affected electors should have been allowed to cast challenge votes, but officials did not allow it. The Conduct of Elections Rules provides for polling agents to challenge the identity of a person who they believe is not who they are claiming to be. Such votes are called challenge votes.

Electors can vote under Rule 49P if they find out that someone has already done so in their stead. Tender votes are cast on ballot papers and then sealed and locked away, with the voter required to sign their name on the list of tendered votes.

One of the voters whose vote had been cast by someone else, told TNM, "This is a serious issue and the election commission should take appropriate action. We have every right to cast our vote and it's not acceptable for someone else to use our vote."

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