A Congress candidate in the Assam assembly elections have confirmed what was believed by most people in the state, that govt officials were instrumental in filling the voter lists with names without any verification. This explosive revelation was made by Sibamoni Bora, the Congress candidate from Batadrava constituency in Nagaon district, who was earlier a Block Development Officer.
At an election rally in Batadrava, Sibamoni Bora said that when she was entrusted with election duties when she was posted there as BDO, she let people enter their names without any verification. She said this to prove how she has been ‘serving’ people of the area even before she joined politics, when she was a government officer.
In a video shared by Assamese news channel News Live, Sibamoni Bora can be heard saying, ‘me and my father and have been working for you for a long time. A lot of you people have got voting rights because of me, I can claim that. Because when I was a BDO here, when hearings took place (for updating voter lists), I had accepted all the applications without a single house visit. Those who hare voting now here, I had enabled them to do so. If I had not done that at that time, you would not have got the voting rights.’
The Congress candidate further added, ‘you don’t have to fear about that, because this time the grand alliance will form the government’. She hinted that if Congress-AIUDF combine does not come to power, they may lose the voting rights, and hence they should vote for her.
In Assam, public hearings take place for determining the applications submitted for inclusion of names in the voter list. During such hearings, the applicants present their case for including them as voter, while others can object to the same if they suspect that the applicant is an illegal migrant. The Election Commission deputes officers from the state government to conduct such hearings. The officers have the responsibility to ensure that only genuine voters are included in the voter list, and for this they need to visit the house of the applicant to verify the address, apart from verifying other details and documents submitted along with the application.
This is the most important step in ensuring that illegal immigrants can’t enlist themselves as voters of India. But it has been alleged that officials often bypassed the verification process to include names, and the claim by the former BDO, who is now a Congress leader, proves that the allegation is true.
Sibamoni Bora is constesting against incumbent MLA and popular BJP leader Angoorlata Deka, a former actress in the Assamese movie industry. Batadrava is the birthplace of Srimanta Sankardev, the founder of Vaishnavism in Assam. But the region has seen large scale illegal infiltration from Bangladeshis, and large areas of Bardowa Satra, the Vaishnav monastery, has been encroached by illegal immigrants from Bangladeshis. The Congress is largely depending on the Bangladeshi Muslim voters in the constituency. Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has said that removing the encroachers from the Satra land will be one of the main priorities of the govt if NDA comes back to power.