The unusual number of invalid votes in the elections to the Telangana state legislative council from two graduates’ constituencies held on March 14 has come as a surprise to the authorities as well as the candidates.
As the counting of first preferential votes in the two graduates’ constituencies – Hyderabad-Ranga Reddy-Mahabubnagar and Khammam-Warangal-Nalgonda, ended in the early hours of Friday, the authorities noticed that nearly six per cent of the votes polled turned out to be invalid.
In Hyderabad-Ranga Reddy-Mahabubnagar graduates’ constituency, out of a total number of 3,58,348 votes polled, as many as 21,309 votes were declared invalid. Out of 93 candidates in the fray, only four contestants could get more votes than the invalid votes, while all the remaining 89 candidates got lesser number of votes.
“Even Telugu Desam Party’s candidate L Ramana secured only 5,963 votes and rebel Congress candidate G Harshavardhan Reddy got 9,783 votes,” an official of the Hyderabad collectorate involved in the counting of votes said.
Similarly, in Khammam-Warangal-Nalgonda graduates’ constituency, out of the total number of 3,86,302 votes polled, as many as 21,636 votes were declared invalid. In all, 71 candidates are in fray for this seat, but except four candidates, all the others have polled less than the number of invalid votes.
According to the official quoted above, these voters have failed to mark the digits 1, 2, 3 in the boxes provided against the candidates whom they preferred to vote. “Instead, they made tick marks in the boxes or marked their first preferential votes to more than one candidate. Some of them marked the numbers on the names or images of the candidates, instead of in the boxes provided against the names,” he said.
Some others wrote their preferences in words, rather than digits, while a few others wrote slogans like Jai Sri Ram, Jai Modi and Jai Telangana and a few others even put forth their demands like: “give us jobs, fill up vacancies.” All such votes were declared invalid.
“This is ridiculous. The voters are supposed to be graduates and hence highly educated. How can they behave like illiterate voters? The fact that there is such a huge number of invalid votes indicates that these graduate voters do not have the basic understanding of how to cast their vote,” said political analyst Bhandaru Srinivasa Rao.
He felt that too many contestants in the MLC elections might have also led to this confusion among the voters. “The ballot paper was as big as a broadsheet newspaper to accommodate 93 candidates in Hyderabad MLC polls. It could be difficult to identify the candidates of their choice and mark their preferences and that might be the reason for making errors in marking,” Rao said.
Former MLC K Nageshwar, who contested as an independent in the present elections again, attributed this to large-scale enrolment of bogus voters by mainstream parties. “However, they did not give proper training to the voters on how to cast their votes. That led to huge number of invalid votes,” he said.
The large number of bogus votes also drew criticism on social media. “These so-called graduates who don’t even know how to cast their votes do not deserve government jobs. So, instead of issuing job notifications, it is better the government pays them unemployment allowance,” a netizen commented.
Another person observed: “I pity them. Kudos to the teachers who groomed such graduates.”