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Notice on candidate photo in EVMs

New Delhi, July 26: The Supreme Court has issued notice to the poll panel on a plea for inclusion of candidates’ photographs in EVMs to end the perceived menace of namesakes cutting into votes of serious candidates in close contests.

A bench of Chief Justice R.M. Lodha and Justices Kurien Joseph and R.F. Nariman asked the poll panel to reply in four weeks on the petition of Delhi resident Akash Gahlot, who cited purported instances of dummy candidates cutting into the votes of the main candidates.

According to the petitioner, parties have been introducing dummy candidates since 2004 to confuse voters, mostly the illiterate, semi-literate and not-so-vigilant ones.

Gahlot contended that the “problems of namesakes has taken epidemic proportions in the just concluded general election 2014 and the Election Commission has failed to curb the problem in spite of plenary powers vested with it”.

He claimed that it was in the 2004 general election that party strategists realised the potential of namesakes as a tool against rivals in close contests.

Since then, namesake candidates have been eating into the vote share of candidates from mainstream parties.

The petitioner cited the defeat of P.M. Ismail, the CPM candidate in Kerala’s Muvattupuzha Lok Sabha constituency in 2004, as a glaring instance.

It was submitted that in a triangular contest Ismail lost to P.C. Thomas of the NDA by 529 votes. Ismail would have won if his namesakes had not garnered 3,466 votes, the petition claimed.

In the same election, Kerala Congress leader V.M. Sudheeran, now Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president, lost from Alappuzha by 1,009 votes. The Left Democratic Front candidate, K.S. Manoj, was the winner then.

The game changer for Sudheeran was V.S. Sudheeran who managed to poll 8,282 votes, the PIL said.

“It was probably then that the party strategist realised the potential of namesakes as a tool against rivals in close contest.

“Since then, namesake candidates have been eating into the vote share of candidates of mainstream political parties though they are never seen campaigning, the result shows that many of them had polled more votes as independents or candidates of smaller political parties than bigger parties,” the petition claimed.

It said in the 2013 Delhi Assembly elections there were many dummy candidates in a number of constituencies and the Aam Aadmi Party’s broom symbol was confused with the flaming torch allotted to Independents.

“A number of candidates having broom as their election symbol lost because large number of votes have mistakenly gone in favour of candidates whose election symbol was torch,” the petition added.