M A I N   N E W S

Large-scale bogus voting in Leh
Fake slip given to Tribune staffer
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Ladakh, May 10
Against what was expected, the seemingly “docile” Buddhist electorate of Leh resorted to large scale bogus voting today. To make up for the loss which is certain to be caused by the Muslim voters favouring Ghulam Hassan Khan of Kargil, Leh voters left no stone unturned in ensuring valid or invalid support to Thupstan Chhewang, the Independent candidate from their district.

Buddhists of Leh were extremely worried over the high voter turnout in Kargil which had already recorded 42.29 % votes by 12 noon. Leh, in turn, lagged behind at 30.58 % even at 1 pm. It was after 1 pm that fake votes were cast on a mass scale. Rules were flouted with impunity at nearly all the 10 polling booths this correspondent visited in Leh. The most blatant violation was seen at the polling booth located in Government Primary School, Tugcha, an area located away from the city precincts.

All the security personnel on duty here confirmed to The Tribune that each person was casting his/her vote even as many as 10 times. On waiting at the booth for about an hour and watching the voter behaviour the scenario became amply clear. Each voter was seen struggling to remove the indelible mark. In their attempt they were being openly supported by poll agents, who not only provided them with fevicol which made the removal of mark easier, but also guided them to press the button against the aeroplane (Thupstan Chhewang’s symbol). As voters proudly claimed that they had cast their vote five, 10 or even 15 times, district election authorities’ rule requiring them to rub off their skin with a cloth before the application of the indelible mark, seemed nonsensical. None of the officers on duty cared if the rules were being followed. Even the Presiding officer Mr Anup Raj could hardly figure out that people were changing looks and dresses to vote repeatedly.

In fact, poll officers at Tugcha were issuing slips in the name of people who were either no present or were dead. Not only that, every voter at this booth was found removing the indelible mark under the nose of government officers, who were giving away slips.

The height of blatancy was reached when unfamiliar with this correspondent’s background one of the poll agents asked her if she was willing to cast a bogus vote. Claiming that he had himself voted 25 times (he was still rubbing off the mark), he assured the correspondent that nothing would go wrong. After having made his case, he actually got a voter’s slip number 745 in the name of one Arnol Devi, wife of Haniz Chowdra who, he said, did not belong to Ladakh.

“Since you don’t look like a Ladakhi you can vote on the slip of this woman, who hails from outside Ladakh. Just be confident and remember you have to press the button against the aeroplane,” he asserted. It was only after one of the security men told him about the purpose of this correspondent’s visit that the agent returned to her saying, “You may have a difficulty because you don’t look like a Kashmiri. Also you hardly look like Arnol Devi.”

Having said this, he slipped away. After about 15 minutes he was seen standing in the line of voters, supposedly for the 26th time!

Meanwhile, voting percentages last recorded at 4 pm saw the maximum turnout in Kargil (70%). Zanskar recorded 42 % while Leh district registered the turnout of 49.45 in Nubra segment and a turnout of 36.92% in Leh segment.

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