The University of Mumbai (MU) received an underwhelming response to its fresh voter enrolment drive for the senate elections, which is being carried out following allegations of discrepancies in the previous registration process.
Only 17,000 Enrollments Ahead of Deadline
As of Wednesday, a day before the registration deadline, only around 17,000 people had signed up for the electoral rolls for the graduate constituency of the senate, the varsity’s top statutory body. By comparison, a record 1.13 lakh graduates had applied to be part of the earlier electoral roll, which has since been discarded by the university.
Election Suspension and Redo
The election for registered graduates was suspended in August, following a complaint by BJP legislator Ashish Shelar, who had alleged that the voter list had several duplicate entries, among other alleged irregularities. While a three-member probe committee appointed by MU denied the claims, it recommended redoing the voter enrolment process as it faulted the varsity for making Aadhaar mandatory for voter registration, despite there being no such provision in the rules.
Consequently, the university decided to scrap the entire electoral roll bearing 94,162 names and redo the voter registration process. The decision prompted widespread criticism from student and youth organisations and has been challenged in the Bombay High Court (HC).
Activists Condemn MU's Decision, Claim Voters Reluctant to Re-Enroll
The activists claimed that the voters were reluctant to re-enroll themselves as they were disappointed with their names being removed from the list. “The Hitlerish and arbitrary decision of MU and the state government seems to have been somehow rejected by the educated graduate electorate. This educated voter is already fed up with dirty politics and does not vote. These voters will definitely show their real power and anger soon, as the government has insulted them by cancelling the registration of around 94,000 voters,” said Sagar Devre, the lawyer who moved HC against the university.
Aadhaar Requirement Dropped, OTP Verification Introduced
The activists also pointed out that while the university did away with the Aadhar requirement in the fresh registration drive, it introduced a one-time password (OTP) verification process. This, according to them, created a major hindrance for political parties, as they were unable to register voters en masse. The varsity had also asked voters to submit physical copies of their application and documents in addition to online registration, but later did away with this requirement.
“Earlier, 1.3 lakh people enrolled for the festival of democracy. However, due to technical glitches and hectic process, voters aren’t applying. The university has made a mockery of democracy,” said Santosh Gangurde, Santosh Gangurde, state chief organiser, Maharashtra Navnirman Vidyarthi Sena.
Accusations of Democracy Mockery as MU Faces Criticism
Amol Matele, vice president, of Nationalist Youth Congress, the youth wing of NCP (Sharad Pawar faction), said that the state’s ruling alliance was purposely trying to avoid senate election as it was afraid of a loss. “How many times will we get people to register The elections should have been held as per the schedule. The BJP didn’t do any registrations and now they they are afraid of conducting elections. They are a jumla and a corrupt party,” he said.
"MU did not make any efforts to reach out graduates for these elections. There was no formal announcement through news papers and other medium of mass communication. Graduates do not visit university website on a regular basis. Else, It would have increased the registration turnout rate," said Harshad Bhide, Convener, Vidyapeeth Vikas Manch (VVM), a body formed by Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).